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UN rights experts condemn modern-day ‘racial terror lynchings’

Given the track record of impunity for racial violence of this nature in the United States, black people have good reason to fear for their lives.

Geneva, Switzerland | AFP | Independent UN rights experts called Friday for systemic reform in the United States following the killings of George Floyd and other African Americans they said resembled “modern-day racial terror lynchings”.

The group, who report to the world body, decried the spate of killings by police and others, largely with impunity.

Their statement said a number of the killings displayed a “particular disregard or depravity toward human life, and the use of public spaces to assert racial control, each characteristic of lynching.”

The comments came as demonstrators continue to throng US cities to protest the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

His May 25 death followed the police killing in Kentucky of emergency health worker Breonna Taylor in her home and the fatal shooting of unarmed black jogger Ahmaud Arbery.

The 12 special rapporteurs, three working groups on rights issues and the chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said they “strongly condemn” the killing of all three and called for “systemic reform and justice”.

– ‘Terror’ –

“The latest videos to surface showing white men chase, corner, and execute a young man who was out jogging, or showing an officer kneeling with his weight on a man’s neck for eight minutes shock the conscience and evoke the very terror that the lynching regime in the United States was intended to inspire,” they said.

“Given the track record of impunity for racial violence of this nature in the United States, black people have good reason to fear for their lives.”

The experts highlighted that “the origin story of policing in the United States of America starts with slave patrols and social control, where human property of enslavers was ‘protected’ with violence and impunity against people of African descent.”

“In the US, this legacy of racial terror remains evident in modern-day policing,” they said.

Arbery, 25, was shot on February 23 by Travis McMichael, one of three white men who chased him down in pickup trucks in  Brunswick town.

A witness told a court this week that McMichael used a racial slur after shooting him, calling him a “fucking n*****”.

“The last few moments of Ahmaud’s life involved pursuit by a lynching party identical to the lynching parties of the Jim Crow era,” the experts charged.

They also raised concerns about the police reaction to demonstrations in several cities, noting a “militarisation” of the response and the detention of thousands of protesters, as well as the targeting and detention of reporters of colour.

“Statements from the US government inciting and threatening violence against protesters stand in stark contrast to calls for leniency and understanding which the government had issued in the wake of largely white protests against COVID-19 restrictions,” they said.

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