The UN investigating the killing of an unarmed black man by US police is historic
US law enforcement is out of control. The recent killing of another young black man, Jayland Walker, shot dead by Ohio Police, is a harrowing case in point.
And, the dynamics around his death are so shocking, that a newly created United Nations group, formed after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, are conducting an independent investigation into the circumstances around Walker’s killing.
The expert group is expected to follow up the findings with practical solutions. It’s a landmark investigation, and in many ways the first of its kind.
Attorney for Walker’s family, Bobby DiCello, explained that, “Jayland Walker’s case is so significant that the United Nations Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement is providing a set of recommendations to the U.N. General Assembly, to U.S. Congress, the President of the United States, and other local and federal U.S. government agencies.”
''Whilst the fight for truth and justice is likely to be long, ultimately, forcing Ohio police to account for every action taken which led to the death of Jayland Walker, is necessary. Especially given that there have been other deaths of unarmed black men - Casey Goodson and Andre Hill - at the hands of officers from this division.''
Of course we don’t yet know what conclusions the UN group will draw when examining the facts and available evidence around the death. However, another group made of lawyers, judges and legal experts produced a report in 2021, which looked at various cases similar to Walker’s. They concluded that some of the police killings of black people in the US met the legal criteria of ‘crime against humanity’. As well as providing recommendations for US state and federal governments, they also called for an international probe by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Whether the same conclusions will be made in relation to Walker’s death is of course unknown, but it’s not hard to imagine the same situation being roundly condemned as a war crime if it had happened outside of the US. Historically, the US has hypocritically lectured others on human rights and international law, but especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, this has forced many around the world to point the finger back.
If the involvement of the UN is significant, it isn’t surprising. The US is failing to get its house in order, and is yet to pass meaningful legislation to tackle corruption within US policing. There simply does not seem to be the political will from the White House to do so, despite the fact that white supremacy, specifically within policing, is one of the greatest internal security threats.
Instead, we see the tragic results of hundreds of years of unchallenged and unbridled racism, corrupt policing and increasingly militarised police force, play out with devastating consequences for black communities.
And, in the case of Walker, militarised police seems to be the appropriate description. Several rounds were fired at unarmed Walker in the space of around 7 seconds. His body was riddled with bullets and officers did the usual practice of cuffing him, after he’d been shot. Over 60 wounds were found on his body.
Even for those familiar with the epidemic of police violence in the US, Walker’s dehumanising death has left many stunned and outraged. He was 25-years old and on the cusp of life. Heart-breaking doesn’t begin to describe this tragedy.
Sections of the media have been known to frame narratives and suggest that shooting incidents are the fault and responsibility of the victim. Jayland Walker, however, had committed no crime, and was unarmed when he was shot. Not that anything every justifies what the police did to him…
The pain of the Walker family has been further compounded by the fact that Ohio police have failed to release all of the body camera footage, unedited and it its totality. To his loved ones, this is forcing them to relive the trauma.
Whilst the fight for truth and justice is likely to be long, ultimately, forcing Ohio police to account for every action taken which led to the death of Jayland Walker, is necessary. Especially given that there have been other deaths of unarmed black men - Casey Goodson and Andre Hill - at the hands of officers from this division.
We should be under no illusion, however, that the recommendations to the US government to deal with the scourge of violent policing will likely prove to be little more than symbolic. But, involvement from international agencies like the UN will help highlight internationally, the true nature of US authorities.
Richard Sudan is a journalist and writer specialising in anti-racism and has reported on various human rights issues from around the world. His writing has been published by The Guardian, Independent, The Voice and many others.
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