New Report Reveals U.S. Out of Step with International Law on Police Use of Force; Urges UN Experts to Address Police Violence Against Black Americans


The Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law (GJC) and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights today released a Joint Submission to the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, analyzing the excessive and discriminatory use of force by police against Black Americans under international human rights law. The submission’s release coincides with the Working Group’s visit to assess the state of racial disparities in the United States, which begins today and ends Friday, January 29.

Justin Hansford - Professor, St. Louis University School of Law; Sara Mokuria - Co-Founder, Mothers Against Police Brutality. Photo credits Daniel Cima

Justin Hansford – Professor, St. Louis University School of Law; Sara Mokuria – Co-Founder, Mothers Against Police Brutality. Photo credits Daniel Cima

The analysis by GJC and RFK Human Rights reveals that many government policies and practices regarding policing in the United States fall short of international standards and some are in outright violation of international human rights law. First, the submission examines how the US legal framework governing the use of force by police deviates from international standards in ways that put Black Americans at a uniquely high risk of police violence. Second, it discusses how deficiencies in police training exacerbate the problem. Third, the document explores how police tactics, including “broken windows” policing, stop-and-frisk practices, and the increasing militarization of police departments, contravene international standards when they disproportionately target Black Americans, particularly those in low-income communities. Fourth, the submission reveals how structural deficiencies in the criminal justice system contribute to a culture of impunity and a lack of accountability for police killings of civilians, particularly Black Americans. Finally, the submission offers recommendations to the United States, grounded in international standards and human rights law, to address the problem of excessive use of force by police against Black Americans.

Many of these issues were explored in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in October 2015, a video of which is available online. The hearing is discussed in an IACHR report, currently available in Spanish (English forthcoming).