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UK: Dismantle systemic racism against Black people in policing and criminal justice, end police impunity

Marcia Rigg, Sean Rigg’s sister, delivered a joint statement on behalf of ISHR, INQUEST and United Families and Friends Campaign, highlighting how bereaved families in the UK and beyond have had to fight for accountability and struggle to have their voices heard and their experiences counted, and calling on the UN to put the voices of victims and their families at the heart of the transformative racial justice agenda to dismantle systemic racism.

On 5 October 2021, Marcia Rigg, the sister of Sean Rigg, addressed the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council during the general debate on Item 9. She told the Council that her brother died following excessive restraint by four UK Metropolitan police officers in 2008. Sean was extremely unwell and required urgent medical assistance. Arrested for theft of his own passport, unnecessarily restrained face down for 8 minutes with force applied to the back of his neck and left shoulder, driven at speed in a cramped cage position to the police station instead of a hospital, kept for 11 minutes in the van with no risk assessment and removed in a collapsed state. Sean died on camera at the feet of multiple officers who claimed he was asleep, still handcuffed and practically naked, all within less than an hour of his arrest. 

After long delays, legal challenges and arduous campaigning, all officers were cleared of wrongdoing in 2019.  Sean’s story is like many others as highlighted in the High Commissioner’s report to the Council in June 2021.

Following the murder of George Floyd, Marcia joined with other victims’ families from across the globe spoke with the UN High Commissioner about their experiences, which were strikingly similar.

The High Commissioner called for a transformative racial justice agenda, and to dismantle systemic racism.  Many States at the Human Rights Council condemned the racially discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by law enforcement officials against Black people, and systemic racism in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. These strong words of the UN and its member States require the strongest of actions. 

Bereaved families in the UK and beyond have had to fight for accountability and struggle to have their voices heard and their experiences counted.  The UN must put victims’ families at the heart of this important process.

ISHR stands in solidarity with all victims and their families in their plights to be heard, and get justice for their loved ones.

Watch the joint statement here:

Background:

In June 2021, the High Commissioner issued a groundbreaking report which analysed 190 deaths of Black people during or following contact with law enforcement officers across the world. The report found that police officers are rarely held accountable in these cases due to lack of independent and robust oversights and lack of cooperation by police officers in investigations and attempts in some instances to proactively undermine accountability processes.

In July 2021, the Council established an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The mechanism, which will comprise three experts with law enforcement and human rights expertise, is mandated to pursue transformative change for racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement globally. It is tasked to consider the legacies of colonialism and the Transatlantic slave trade in enslaved Africans, to investigate governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests and all violations of international human rights law and to contribute to accountability and redress for victims. In addition, the Council mandated annual reporting of the High Commissioner on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, and to contribute to accountability and redress

Starting from June 2022, the new expert mechanism and the High Commissioner will present their written annual reports to the Council followed by a debate that prioritises the participation of directly affected individuals and communities.

 

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