Police at night lining the street with police cars in the background with their lights on

Report: Police treatment of African Americans in the US amounts to crimes against humanity

A 188-page report on police brutality finds that the US has two systems of justice — one for white people and another for Black people.

The World

Oakland police officers line the street as demonstrators confront the officers during a protest against police brutality in Oakland, California, April 16, 2021.

Ethan Swope/AP

When Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, his brother Philonise Floyd, asked the United Nations to investigate.

A group of African countries proposed an independent commission focused on the US. That didn’t happen, in part because of lobbying by the Trump administration. So, an international group of lawyers set up an independent commission of its own.

Related: International lawyers and activists organize independent inquiry into US police violence

On Tuesday, they released their report. It concludes that police treatment of African Americans in the US amounts to crimes against humanity. The commission is calling on the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation.

“We can stand on the sidelines and wring our hands. ... Or we can ... mobilize the international community.”

Lennox Hinds, international human rights attorney

“We can stand on the sidelines and wring our hands. We can decide to do nothing and say it is helpless,” said international human rights attorney Lennox Hinds, who coordinated the effort. “Or we can do what we are doing here, which is to mobilize the international community.”

Related: Reporting on police brutality is complicated for some minority journalists

The 12 commission members are high-profile human rights activists and lawyers who hail from around the world. They held virtual hearings into the cases of 43 Black people killed by police since 2000. Their 188-page report finds that the US has two systems of justice — one for white people and another for Black people. It says the US has tolerated a racist pattern of disproportionate force against African Americans, including unreasonable searches and seizures, and the excessive use of firearms and tasers. 

“The international community includes a very large international civil society that is already paying heed to what this report has said, and their pressure cannot be underestimated,” said commissioner Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights activist.

The commission urged President Joe Biden and members of Congress to demilitarize the police, make deescalation standard and create an independent, elected body to monitor anti-racism efforts within law enforcement. The report says that the US should consider reparations, and it should accept the oversight of the International Criminal Court.

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If the US doesn’t, commissioner Peter Herbert — the chair of the Society of Black Lawyers — said that there are other options.

“Part of what brought down the apartheid regime ... was the decision by millions ... to boycott South African goods.”

Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers

“Part of what brought down the apartheid regime — and only part — was the decision by millions of people across the world to boycott South African goods,” he said. “American goods are not unique. They can be boycotted.”