GENEVA (Reuters) – The brother of the late George Floyd, a black man whose death under the knee of a white officer roused world protests against racial injustice, urged the United Nations on Wednesday to investigate U.S. police brutality and racial discrimination.
“The way you saw my brother tortured and murdered on camera is the way black people are treated by police in America,” Philonise Floyd told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva by video.
He urged creation of an independent commission to investigate American police killings of black people and violence used against peaceful protesters.
“You watched my brother die. That could have been me. I am my brother’s keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers and sisters’ keepers in America, and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd,” he said.
The urgent debate, convened at the request of African countries seeking a U.N. inquiry into abuses, was to continue on Thursday.
“The Human Rights Council must be the ultimate defender of the weak and do so particularly for the descendants and the victims of the transatlantic slave trade,” South Africa’s ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko told the talks.
Activists and diplomats said that U.S. and Australian officials had lobbied African countries to tone down their draft resolution. The latest draft, seen by Reuters, does not name the United States or set up a U.N. commission of inquiry.
The latest text proposes that the office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet “establish the facts and circumstances relating to systemic racism” and alleged use of excessive force, and report back in a year.
Bachelet, in her speech, called for investigating and prosecuting excessive use of force by police and for “swift and decisive reforms”.
“Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. The lives of people of colour matter. All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights,” she said.
The United States quit the Council two years ago and does not attend debates.
Andrew Bremberg, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, issued a statement saying that his country was “not above scrutiny” as it grappled with racial discrimination but was implementing police reforms after Floyd’s killing.
“As the world’s leading advocate for human rights we call upon all governments to demonstrate the same level of transparency and accountability that the U.S. and our democratic partners practice,” Bremberg said.
China, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela criticised the U.S. record. “Russia knows what racism leads to when it is raised to the status of political doctrine, we remember the Second World War and attempts to rewrite that history,” said Russian ambassador Gennady Gatilov.
China’s ambassador Chen Xu urged the United States to “guarantee effectively the legal rights of ethnic minorities” and “stop using human rights as a political tool and practising double standards internationally.”
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by William Maclean, Giles Elgood and Howard Goller