Marjorie Cohn writes for Truthout on the International Commission of Inquiry, exploring the history and plans for the International Commission of Inquiry. Read or listen to the following report – featuring interviews with Kerry McLean and Lennox Hinds – for more details on this important project. If you are part of another human rights or legal organization that would like to endorse the International Commission of Inquiry, please fill out our endorsement form.
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After Trump Blocked UN Inquiry of Racist Violence, NGOs Are Conducting Their Own
By Marjorie Cohn
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Conference of Black Lawyers and National Lawyers Guild responded to that call by establishing their own International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States.
Rutgers University law professor emeritus Lennox Hinds, who conceived of the idea for the commission, told Truthout, “This International Commission of Inquiry is an attempt to give voice to the international outrage resulting from the public lynching of George Floyd and to expose the racist and systemic nature of police violence against people of African descent in the United States and to hold the U.S. government accountable before the international community.”
Twelve commissioners, including prominent judges, lawyers, professors, advocates and UN special rapporteurs from Pakistan, South Africa, Japan, India, Nigeria, France, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and the West Indies will hold public hearings from January 18 to February 6.
The commission will hear evidence in 50 cases of police violence that occurred throughout the United States from 2010-2020, including the killings of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor and Tamir Rice. Many resulted in the deaths of unarmed or nonthreatening African Americans.
Although the commission won’t have the money and resources a UN investigation would have commanded (were it not for Trump’s obstruction), the scope of this inquiry will go beyond the Council’s resolution by giving voice to the families of Black victims of police brutality.
Testimony of victims’ lawyers and family members, community representatives and acknowledged experts will occur in 25 cities via Zoom. The commissioners will prepare a report for submission to the UN high commissioner and the public by the end of March. They will be assisted in the hearings and preparation of their report by a team of four rapporteurs, including this writer. Students and faculty from Rutgers Law School will provide research support.
The commissioners will ask the UN high commissioner to use our report to inform her report to the Council. We will also publicize our report widely in the United States and throughout the world for people to use in litigation and advocacy.
This will be a thorough investigation of anti-Black violence perpetrated by police in the United States. It will examine: 1) Cases of victims of police violence, extrajudicial killings and maiming of people of African descent and entrenched structural racism in police practices throughout the U.S.; and 2) The structural racism and bias in the criminal “justice” system that results in the impunity of law enforcement officers for violations of U.S. and international law.