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US admits flaws as UN human rights body set to debate racism

The comments came as the Human Rights Council in Geneva, following a call championed by African nations, was set to take up an “urgent debate” on “racially inspired human rights violations, systematic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests.”

The UN-backed council, which counts 47 member states, was also discussing a draft resolution floated by the Africa Group that singles out the United States. The text calls for a commission of inquiry – the rights body’s most powerful tool to inspect rights violations – to look into “systemic racism” and abuses against “Africans and of people of African descent” in the US and beyond.

Such work would be carried out “with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice,” the text states.

Calling the US the world’s “leading advocate” for human rights, Bremberg said: “We are not above scrutiny; however, any HRC (Human Rights Council) resolution on this topic that calls out countries by name should be inclusive, noting the many countries where racism is a problem.”

“We call upon all governments to demonstrate the same level of transparency and accountability that the US and our democratic partners practice,” Bremberg said, making veiled references to Iran and China over their alleged shortcomings when it comes to human rights too.

He alluded to recent accusations of “concentration camps directed at an ethnic minority” and a policy of “systemic racial discrimination against African nationals during the COVID-19 crisis” – a reference to detention centres for China’s Uighur minority and allegations of racial discrimination against blacks in China during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Bremberg pointed to how “another member state brutally murders more than 1500 peaceful protesters,” in a reference to a crackdown against anti-government protesters in Iran in November. That figure is far in excess of the 304 people that Amnesty International estimated were killed.

Many countries, including other Western countries like the US, appealed for greater time to discuss the Africa Group resolution, but expressed overwhelming support for efforts to fight racism.

Defenders of the resolution say such abuses in the US are too common despite a working judicial system, and now is the time to act through intensified scrutiny.

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