This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
On 19 July 2016, Adama died as a result of an arrest at the hands of the gendarmes of Beaumont sur Oise. Five years later, none of the gendarmes involved have been questioned as the courts still refuse to charge them. In light of the stifled progress caused by the failure of the French authorities to reconcile the contradictory reports on the causes of Adama’s death and establish the key facts, and the many unfounded statements issued by the prosecutor in charge of the case, Assa Traoré has initiated several actions demanding that light be shed on the death of her brother. These actions include setting up a “Truth and Justice Committee for Adama”, travelling throughout France and the world to campaign on this matter and various social and political struggles in France and abroad, as well making use of national and international media to raise awareness on the lack of justice for Adama. Through the Truth and Justice Committee for Adama, Assa Traoré has been campaigning to demand transparency on the circumstances of Adama’s arrest, and to have the responsibility of the gendarmes in his death recognised, and, more generally, against police violence.
On 19 July 2019, three years after Adama’s death and frustrated by the perpetual obstruction of the investigation into it, Assa Traoré published a Facebook article on Adama Committee’s page entitled “J’accuse” in which she accused and named all those who have allegedly obstructed the investigation into her brother’s death, including experts, gendarmes, prosecutors and judges. In this article, Assa Traoré demanded the truth about the acts that caused the death of her brother and denounced the lack of action on the part of the judicial authorities in dealing with the perpetrators. The gendarmes mentioned in her article filed a defamation and breach of the presumption of innocence lawsuit against her in December 2019. This lawsuit was dismissed in July 2020 and the three gendarmes were ordered to pay legal costs to Assa Traoré. However, the gendarmes appealed the decision to the Paris Court of Appeal. In February 2021, Assa Traoré was ordered by the Paris Court of Appeal to remove the “J’accuse” article from all social media networks where it was posted and to reimburse the gendarmes’ legal costs.
More recently, on 6 and 7 May 2021, a criminal trial took place before the 17th Chamber of the Paris Correctional Court in which Assa Traoré was sued for defamation. She was tried and the prosecutor demanded that she pay damages of €10,000 to each of the three gendarmes, a disproportionate amount in view of the fact that she is currently unemployed and a mother of three children. On 1 July 2021, Assa Traoré was acquitted of her charge of defamation but the gendarmes’ lawyers said that they would appeal the decision.
At the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in October 2020, ISHR and the Adama Committee delivered a joint statement in which they stated that it was clear that by instituting further legal proceedings against Assa Traoré, the French authorities are attempting to criminalise her and discredit her fight for justice for her brother. These lawsuits are being used to divert the public attention from the justice that is expected for Adama’s death and to dissuade Assa from continuing her struggle. In cases of racially motivated police violence, the criminalisation of victims is recurrent, including the judicial harassment of which Assa Traore is currently a victim.
Despite the swiftness of the French courts in trying Assa Traoré for claims brought against her by the gendarmes to protect the State officials, there has been hardly any progress made after five years towards the trial of those who were involved in Adama’s death. The targeting of Assa Traoré, a family member of the victim of racially motivated police brutality has a considerable adverse impact on all other families who wish to speak out and seek justice for the crimes and violence committed by the police.
In ISHR’s joint statement issued at the 47th Session of the HRC, ISHR noted that although France is a member of the HRC, it allows a climate of impunity for racialised police violence to persist. ISHR urged France to end impunity for racist police violence, end judicial harassment against defenders working on police violence, and refrain from criminalising them. ISHR also urged France to accept the pending visit requests by the Special Rapporteur on racism and the Working Group on People of African Descent. Watch ISHR’ statement here.
In view of the above, ISHR and the Adama Committee request the French Government to:
- Put an end to the judicial harassment faced by Assa Traoré for her plea that the perpetrators of her brother’s death be held responsible and prosecuted;
- Ensure a prompt, transparent and impartial investigation into the case of Adama Traoré;
- Accept the United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism and the Working Group on People of African Descent’s requests to visit the country; and
- End impunity for police violence and ensure genuinely free and impartial investigations into the death or injury of any person at the hands of the police.
ISHR welcomes the Council’s historic consensus decision, led by the Africa Group, to adopt a resolution mandating an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and to promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The adoption of this resolution is testament to the resilience, bravery and commitment of victims, their families, their representatives and anti-racism defenders globally.
ISHR, as part of a broad civil society coalition from the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and international human rights organisations, is calling on the UN Human Rights Council, during its 47th session, to adopt a resolution that ensures effective accountability and follow-up to HRC Resolution 43/1 on systemic racism and police violence against Africans and people of African descent in the United States and globally.
It's difficult to encapsulate such a complex year in a word, but "interconnected" is one that comes to mind when reflecting on 2020. We are proud to have remained deeply interconnected with defenders and to have supported, protected and amplified their work at the national, regional and international levels. With them, the "essential workers" of our times, we strive for a 2021 full of freedom, equality, dignity and justice.
ISHR joined 171 families of victims of police violence in the United States and over 270 civil society organisations from more than 40 countries in sending letters to the UN High Commissioner and the African Group regarding the UN Human Rights Council’s role to ensure effective accountability and follow-up to HRC Resolution 43/1 on anti-Black racism and police brutality in the United States and globally.
In reaction to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in the United States, anti-racist advocates and the families of victims have succeeded in turning the tide at the UN on the issue of anti-Black racism and violence policewomen. In a new video released today, ISHR highlights their essential contributions, in tribute to George Floyd and all victims of racially-motivated police violence.
In an online discussion organised by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Uyghur camp survivor Gülbahar Jalilova shared her story of long-term arbitrary detention. Her testimony echoes mounting evidence of human rights violations that call for systematic UN monitoring and public reporting.
Following limited remarks yesterday, ISHR joins with more than 20 organisations to press the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to initiate monitoring and reporting on the crisis targeting Uyghurs, as well as other key populations in China, especially in light of growing credible assessments of crimes against humanity.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder on 25 May 2020 in the U.S., antiracism defenders and families of victims of police violence have been turning the tables at the UN on anti-Black racism and police brutality. In a new video released today, ISHR is highlighting the essential contributions of defenders and victims' families and paying tribute to Floyd and to all the victims of racially charged police violence.
16 organisations* share reflections on the key outcomes of the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the missed opportunities to address key issues and situations including pushbacks and other human rights violations faced by migrants and refugees, and the human rights situations in Algeria, Cameroon, China, India, Kashmir and the Philippines. A shortened version was delivered at the Council. Full written version below.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights gave her second update to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on 19 March 2021. She reaffirmed that she will center the lived experiences of victims and their families, emphasised the necessity for the HRC to continue addressing systemic racism, and warned that without addressing the root causes, impunity for racist police violence will prevail.
Genuinely combating racial discrimination is essential for a more just and peaceful society. This notably requires an end to impunity, especially when the perpetrators of racial discrimination and violence are representatives of the State. This is what ISHR and its French national partner, the Collectif Urgence Notre Police Assassine (UNPA), reminded France in a video statement presented at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council.