We’ve all heard the stories of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Walter Scott in Charleston. Commonality: they were all killed by law enforcement officers.
In its yearly review, international NGO Human Rights Watch determined that the mistreatment of blacks in America by law enforcement officials is among the top human rights calamities and violations occurring across the globe.
Human Rights Watch has issued a report entitled “World Report 2016: Events of 2015,” in which they denounced the way in which U.S. police forces interact with communities of color.
The report highlighted harsh sentencing, racial disparities in criminal justice, drug reform, police reform, prison and jail conditions, poverty and criminal justice, and youth in the criminal justice system.
In 2015 alone, there were at least 102 police shootings that killed unarmed black men. Evidence suggests that more than one out of three of the total black men killed by police were unarmed. Unarmed blacks are killed at five times the rate of whites.
Another chilling finding: only nine out of the 102 cases led to an officer being charged with a crime.
The report also took the United States to task on the rights of undocumented citizens, labor rights, right to health, rights of people with disabilities, women’s and girls’ rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, national security, and foreign policy.
Human Rights Watch’s criticism of police brutality has led the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent to recommend reparations for black Americans. The working group’s chair Mireille Fanon Mendes-France of France has written that her committee of non-American members has been horrified at their findings. She sees no reconciliation with people of African decent in America’s history and sees police violence as a matter of international urgency.
Mendes-France compared the recent deaths of unarmed black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police to the lynchings of black men in the South from the post-Civil War days through the Civil Rights era. Those deaths, and others, have inspired protests around the country under the Black Lives Matter moniker.
“Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynchings in the past,” she told reporters. “Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The Human Rights Watch report’s discussion of America’s police brutality problem sheds more light on how the U.S. treats its black citizens while steadily preaching human rights to other countries at the same time. Making the United States accountable for its violations is of utmost necessity for the human rights community because of the influence the U.S. has on the rest of the world. Human rights attorney Nicole Lee notes that most Americans do not believe their country is capable of a violation that makes a list of serious international human rights issues.
“I think that as more African Americans recognize that they are in an international human rights struggle, they will find that there are many peoples around the globe that will agree and support us,” says Lee.