Affected communities need to be involved in shaping these reforms, including redirecting funds from policing to alternative security measures, they added.
“We have repeatedly expressed our concern about the excessive use of force by the American police in peaceful demonstrations and the use of deadly force against people who were not at risk at the time of police intervention,” the experts said in a statement.
“In this time of political change, the United States must introduce far-reaching reforms to tackle police brutality and systemic racism.”
Excessive use of force
African American communities have long condemned police brutality and racial profiling.
The issue gained worldwide attention last year when protests broke out in the United States, some of which were violent, after the death of George Floyd, the unarmed African American whose death was videotaped in police custody.
Legal experts welcomed a recent report on the protest response in the city of Philadelphia, which found that authorities had not planned the demonstrations well and that excessive force had been used.
They urged other municipalities to evaluate their response and allegations of systemic racism.
“In Philadelphia, as in other parts of the country where protests against Black Lives Matter took place, law enforcement efforts were not limited to areas allegedly looted and vandalized,” they said. “Police officers randomly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray at close range at demonstrators, local residents and bystanders. Tear gas canisters even ended up in home gardens and injured children. ”
Revision of the laws on the use of deadly force
The experts were also concerned that law enforcement officers in the US are allowed to use lethal force when it is deemed “appropriate” to do so. They called for an urgent revision of the relevant legal and political framework in order to take the established international human rights standards into account.
“The use of potentially fatal force is an extreme measure that can only be resorted to when absolutely necessary to protect life or to protect serious injury from an imminent threat,” they said. “Likewise, less lethal weapons may only be used under strict requirements of necessity and proportionality, if less harmful measures would be ineffective.”
In this context, they called for a reform of laws and guidelines regarding the use of tear gas, pepper spray and other “so-called less lethal weapons” during the protests.
“The increasing and improperly regulated use of less lethal weapons raises serious and dramatic concerns about respect for the right to life and the right to freedom from torture and other ill-treatment,” the experts said. “You can kill and have killed; You can do terrible harm and wounding, resulting in permanent disability. ”
Against the “militarization” of the police
Given the increasing “militarization” of policing, the experts said the use of military equipment by law enforcement agencies could not be justified, adding that studies show that military equipment and armored vehicles do not reduce crime or increase the safety of officers .
With crimes accounting for around 80 percent of arrests in the US, legal experts said reducing “unnecessary interactions” between police and community members would lead to less violence and deaths.
“We have seen many police killings resulting from police operations related to minor crime. Instead, non-serious crimes, including minor traffic violations, should be tackled through mechanisms outside of criminal law, ”they recommended.
The experts said that ensuring equality and justice in law enforcement will require the involvement of affected communities, who need to be involved in shaping policing and related reforms.
“Police reforms need to take real and substantial action to address systemic racism in policing, including against racial, ethnic and other minorities, by separating it from current police budgets and investing in alternative social and economic resources that contribute to the safety of these communities are vital. ” they said.
“We hope that the new US administration can carry out the necessary reforms with determination, determination and a strong political and financial commitment.”
The role of the UN experts
The 18 experts who made the statement were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on specific thematic issues. This includes members of a working group that deals with racial discrimination against people of African origin worldwide.
The experts are neither UN employees nor are they paid by the organization.
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