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People pass a plywood wall with the 'Black Lives Matter' slogan on it, in Atlanta People pass a plywood wall with the 'Black Lives Matter' slogan on it, in Atlanta 

U.N. Rights Body Adopts Antiracism Resolution Amid Controversy

The United Nations' top human rights body has agreed unanimously to commission a U.N. report on what it views as systemic racism and discrimination against black people around the world. But the Human Rights Council declined pressure to single out the United States after the death of George Floyd in U.S. police custody sparked worldwide protests.

By Stefan J. Bos

The Council's 47 members approved by consensus a revised resolution on discrimination during talks in Geneva, Switzerland. It was presented by African nations for an urgent council debate, following the death of George Floyd, the unarmed black man who recently died in U.S. police custody.

The resolution followed days of wrangling over language. An initially strongly-worded text proposed earlier this week had called for a high-level international investigation into police violence against people of African descent in the United States.

Among those supporting the probe was George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd.  "My brother, George Floyd, is one of the many black men and women that have been murdered by police in recent years. The sad truth is that the case is not unique," he Council in a remote address Wednesday.

"The way you saw my brother tortured and murdered on camera is the way black people are treated by police in America. You watched my brother die. That could have been me."

Floyd asked the group to set up a commission of inquiry into racism and police brutality in the United States — specifically "police killings of black people and America and the violence used against peaceful protesters." He added: "I'm asking you to help him. I'm asking you to help me."I am asking you to help us: black people in America."

Black lives matter

Though his brother's death sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the world, the resolution was watered down in recent days. First, the text removed the call for an international probe. And finally, it was decided to strip away any mention of the U.S.

That sparked outrage from rights groups, which accused Washington and its allies of lobbying heavily to revise the text -- a charge that the U.S. mission in Geneva declined to respond.

Burkina Faso's ambassador, who presented the resolution on behalf of African states, acknowledged Friday that "numerous concessions" had been made to "guarantee a consensus" on the text.

There will be no international probe into the situation in the United States. But the approved text asks U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to examine governments' responses to peaceful anti-racism protests and to report back to the Council in June next year.

It also asked her to include updates on police brutality against Africans and people of African descent in her regular updates to the Council between now and then. That could include the United States.

Fighting for equality

The central African Republic Ambassador Leopold Ismael Samba expressed concern that resolutions against racism are still needed today.  "It is unacceptable to have still to be talking about and fighting for equality for some people. That is 72 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that all people are born free and with dignity," he stressed.    

Iran and Palestine signed on among the co-sponsors for the resolution condemning "the continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices" by law enforcement against Africans and people of African descent.  

"In particular, which led to the death of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 in Minnesota," it said.

Iran has been condemned internationally over its human rights abuses. But any state can sign on as a resolution co-sponsor at the Council.

20 June 2020, 17:00