Unfortunately, not enough media coverage was given to the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States that was released last week. Why so? Was it because the title was too long, the report too extensive at 188 pages, or the findings too troubling? It was good to see that several websites and publications, mostly on the left, refused to let such an important report fly below the radar. In many respects, it was reminiscent of the mission that Malcolm X took in 1964 to highlight America’s history of genocide, and that may be another reason that it has come and gone without too much attention.
Included in this report by the International Commission of Inquiry are findings, recommendations and analysis based on live hearings and information compiled from 44 cases of police maiming and killing of Black people in the U.S. Obviously, the George Floyd murder is among the paramount cases, and it’s rewarding that his brother, Philonise, is among the witnesses summoned to testify before the commission. And Nicole Paultre Bell, the widow of the slain Sean Bell, and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, were among those who could speak personally about the slayings.
The commissioners and rapporteurs were a distinguished body of attorneys and representatives from around the world, including Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles of Barbados, who has been a prominent advocate for reparations, and Mireille Fanon-Mendes of France, the daughter of the great Frantz Fanon. Prof. Horace Campbell, a well-known activist and internationalist was among the rapporteurs.
Three organizations of unimpeachable integrity were pivotal in developing the report: the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). The executive summary that opens the lengthy report cuts to the chase, noting that its purpose is “to examine whether widespread
and systematic racist violence in policing against people of African descent in the United States of America (U.S.) has resulted in a continuing pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
If the commissioners were viewed as jurors, the verdict would be guilty, and that conclusion is spelled out indicating that “the Commissioners find a pattern and practice of racist police violence in the U.S. in the context of a history of oppression dating back to the extermination of First Nations people, the enslavement of Africans, the militarization of U.S. society, and the continued perpetuation of structural racism.” In effect, it’s a sweeping indictment and the recommendations are no less commanding and touch on practically every aspect of race relations and the tragic encounters between the police and people of color.
Some of the findings and recommendations remind us again of the atrocities conducted by the nation’s law enforcement agencies, indicating that “in case after case, the Commissioners find evidence of an alarming pattern of destruction, loss and manipulation of evidence, cover ups, obstruction of justice, and collusion between various arms of law enforcement in connection with the unjustified killings of unarmed persons of African descent. Police officers and their unions, prosecutors, coroners and ‘independent medical examiners’ are accomplices in the service of impunity.” This latter point is one the Amsterdam News discussed in detail on its three-part series of qualified immunity, which is not ignored in this report.
In fact, it extends into the human rights realm where Malcolm tried to take the issue of violence and racism against Black people. The report draws attention of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to the findings and recommendations and urges the High Commissioner to support a number of resolutions mandated by UNHRC to conduct full investigation of police violence against people of African descent and to determine whether such actions constitute crimes against humanity. Merrick Garland, the new attorney general has already begun his probe into this realm, and he would be well-served to read and absorb some of the recommendations from the report.
As noted at the beginning of this article, the report is so long and exhaustive in its findings and recommendations that it may discourage coverage, but at least some notice should be given, even if as we post our brief discussion here. This is a very important report and is imbued with the insight and passion that should make an editorial and classroom topic. Let this be our contribution to that end.