Participants in a debate Wednesday at the U.N. Human Rights Council on systemic racism have called for an independent investigation into the death of African American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
The council meeting began with a moment of silence for all the victims of racial injustice.
In opening the debate, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said merely condemning expressions and acts of racism was not enough to alleviate generations of suffering resulting from racial injustice.
Speaking by teleconference from New York, she said the debate was taking place as marches for racial justice and equality take place around the world.
Mohammed said the "most recent trigger" for the protests was the Floyd case, "but the violence spans history and borders alike, across the globe. Today, people are saying, loudly and movingly, ‘Enough.’ The United Nations has a duty to respond to the anguish that has been felt by so many for so long.”
In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet deplored the death of Floyd and said it had come to symbolize the systemic racism that harms millions of people of African descent.
“It has brought to a head the outrage of people who feel they are neither adequately served, nor adequately heard, by their governments," Bachelet said. "It has brought to their feet millions of allies — people who are now beginning to acknowledge the realities of systemic discrimination suffered by others, and to join their demand that every person in their countries be treated with equality, fairness and respect.”
Floyd's brother gave an emotional address to the council by teleconference from his home in Houston. Philonise Floyd described his family’s anguish while watching the last moments of his brother’s life.
“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. "I am asking you to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us — black people in America.”
In advance of the debate, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Andrew Bremberg issued a statement affirming Washington’s commitment to addressing racial discrimination and injustices stemming from that.
In alluding to the death of George Floyd, he said President Donald Trump had condemned the brutal actions of the police involved and was implementing police reforms. He cited the steps as an example of government transparency and responsiveness in holding violators accountable for their actions.