A spokesman for the Human Rights Council in Geneva confirmed that it had received a letter Monday from the groups outlining their call, as Black Lives Matter protests continue to gain traction well beyond the United States — notably in Europe.
“I want people across the world and the leaders in the United Nations to see the video of my brother George Floyd, to listen to his cry for help, and I want them to answer his cry,” Floyd's brother Philonese Floyd said in an ACLU statement, alluding to video of the killing in Minneapolis.
“I want to appeal to the United Nations to help him. Help me. Help us. Help black men and women in America,” he added. At least one-third of the council's 47 member states would have to back the call for a special session in order for one to be called.
The prospects of one being held swiftly remained uncertain. The body had cut short its last session in March because of the coronavirus outbreak and has been grappling with ways to start it back up next Monday. The council was already scheduled to have the second of its three sessions each year another session starting in June.
The efforts have been complicated because the government of Switzerland, which has seen the COVID-19 pandemic recede in recent weeks, is for now still restricting all public gatherings to no more than 300 people. Council sessions generally draw hundreds more than that.
The groups want an independent investigation into the recent killings of unarmed black people in the United States, as well as one into “violent law enforcement responses to protests.” The call included relatives of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and Philando Castile.
“It’s time the United States face the same scrutiny and judgment it is quick to pass on to other countries,” said Jamil Dakwar, who heads the ACLU’s human rights program. “As communities in the United States call on their leaders to divest from policing and end structural racism, the United Nations must support these domestic demands by holding the United States accountable for its human rights violations.”
The United States, like all U.N. member states, regularly has its human rights record examined by the council, a body that is not part of the United Nations but is supported by it. The Trump administration pulled the United States out of the council two years ago amid accusations that it was biased against Israel and counted some repressive or autocratic regimes that abuse human rights as members.