UN rights chief: Justice at stake in trial over Floyd death


GENEVA — The U.N. human rights chief said Friday that the U.S. trial over the killing of George Floyd presents a “crucial, defining opportunity for justice” that has been denied to countless other families, urging efforts to address the root causes of racial discrimination.

Michelle Bachelet highlighted the case during a Human Rights Council session focusing on systematic discrimination against people of African descent, saying she met last week with family members of such people killed by law enforcement officials. Her office declined to specify who they were, citing confidentiality agreements.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes.

“Ten months after the killing of George Floyd set off new waves of outrage and demands for change across the world, a key trial related to his killing is now beginning,” Bachelet said. “But this crucial, defining opportunity for justice is denied to countless other families.”

“So many cases involving deaths of people of African descent never make it to court, and the pain of so many families goes unacknowledged or even denied,” she said.

During her meetings last week, relatives of victims told her of the ongoing trauma faced by the loss of a child or sibling “so suddenly and violently,” Bachelet said. She cited their struggles with police and judicial authorities to achieve justice.

Bachelet said police brutality and racial discrimination continue against people of African descent, despite heightened visibility about the issues.

“To end racial injustice in law enforcement, we cannot simply see the tip of the iceberg, we must face the mass below the surface,” she said. “We must address the legacies of enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, and its context of colonialism.”

Bachelet said she plans to issue a report to the 47-member-state council in June to recommend “an agenda for transformative change to dismantle systemic racism and police brutality against Africans and people of African descent” and help victims.

Lisa Peterson, an U.S. acting assistant Secretary of State, delivered a statement to the council on behalf of 150 states, saying that fighting racism and racial discrimination means “acknowledging and addressing the legacy of past transgressions” that often turn up in “systemic racism.”

“A great deal more needs to be done,” she said. “Many of our own countries suffer from historical inequalities that, decades and even centuries later, still cast long shadows over the present day.”

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