• Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd speaks to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. (Pool Keystone)Source: Pool Keystone
Australia is reportedly impeding efforts for a motion to pass in the United Nation Human Rights Council that is calling for an inquiry into U.S racism and police brutality.
Shahni Wellington

19 Jun 2020 - 12:12 PM  UPDATED 19 Jun 2020 - 12:14 PM

An urgent debate by the United Nations Human Rights Council on world-wide racism and police brutality has seen Australia lobby for a watered-down approach. 

The meeting was convened at the request of all African countries, who penned a letter to the council following the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in the United States. 

There have only ever been four other 'urgent debates' called by the global representative body.

The letter requested that leaders do more than "merely condemn expressions and acts of racism" and for the Human Rights Council to launch a high-level investigation into U.S racism and police violence against "Africans and of people of African descent."

As President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2018, the delegate did not hold a vote or participate in the debate.

According to a report published overnight by The Australian newspaper, Australia has pushed for a compromise motion to be voted on, rather than a direct inquiry into the United States.

The original motion would have asked the Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, to examine and analyse "alleged violations of international human rights law and abuses against Africans and people of African descent in the United States of America and other parts of the world."

Australia has reportedly lobbied for changes to those demands and has been deemed a "US proxy" for instead supporting a motion that would acknowledge the death of Mr Floyd and call for a more general, international probe into racism. 

Australia joined other American allies including South Korea in voicing their support for Washington.

"The United States is an open liberal democracy governed by the rule of law and we have confidence in their transparent justice systems to address these issues appropriately," Australia's representative said.

As of Friday morning, a vote on the draft resolution was yet to take place.

A brother's plea

The brother of George Floyd appeared via video-link to make a heartfelt plea to the UN Human Rights Council, calling for the America-specific inquiry.

“I hope that you will consider establishing an independent commission of inquiry to investigate police killings of black people in America, and the violence used against peaceful protesters,” Philonise Floyd told the UNHCR on Wednesday.

“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.” 

During the debate on Wednesday, United Nations High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet urged countries to address systemic racism and discrimination through reparations, rather than simply condemn racism and police brutality.

“It was also necessary to make amends for centuries of violence and discrimination, including through formal apologies, truth-telling processes, and reparations in various forms,”

“Behind today’s racial violence, systemic racism and discriminatory policing lies the failure to acknowledge and confront the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism,” Ms Bachelet said. 

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