Bahamas absent from urgent UN debate on racism, police brutality

Bahamas absent from urgent UN debate on racism, police brutality
FILE PHOTO, UNHRC's 33rd Session

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas’ voice was absent on an urgent United Nations Human Rights debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism and police brutality yesterday.

The Bahamas was elected by the United Nations General Assembly on October 12, 2018, to serve on the Human Rights Council (HCR) – the first time a CARICOM country has attained a seat.

During the urgent debate, a host of speakers urged the council to retain focus of the proposed commission of inquiry, specifically on the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody in late March; police brutality and institutional racism within the United States.

Floyd’s death sparked protests and demonstrations in major cities across the globe, with some turning violent. Scores of Bahamians living in the United States have participated in protests from Manhattan to Miami.

Barry Williams on the scenes of a protest for the murder of George Floyd in Downtown Miami last month.

The UN debate began on Wednesday and was concluded on Thursday morning, however, the vote on a draft resolution was postponed.

“During the urgent debate, speakers expressed solidarity with and deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd,” read a UNHC statement.

“History had proven that when allowed to take root, racism damaged societies for generations.

“Colonial institutions, as historically employed by Europe in Africa to perpetuate marginalization, social exclusion and economic inequalities, were cited as root causes by speakers.

“Since systemic racism was a result of colonialism and slavery, fighting it must mean also coming to terms with these root causes.”

Speaking in the urgent debate were Portugal, Zimbabwe, Finland, Mozambique, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Haiti, Iraq, Vanuatu, Barbados, Maldives, Organization of American States, Montenegro, United Kingdom, Guyana, Nicaragua, Luxembourg, Iceland, Norway, Ethiopia, Slovenia, Ivory Coast, Ireland, Bolivia, Ecuador, Turkey, Tunisia, Malta and Israel.

Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Holy See contributed via video message.

A host of civic human rights organizations also took the floor, including the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, American Civil Liberties Union and Centre for Global Nonkilling.

Speaking in right of reply were Brazil and China.

In June 2018, the Trump administration announced its withdrawal from the council, though Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said it was not a retreat from human rights commitments.

As it relates to Floyd’s death, all four former Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death have been charged – one with second-degree murder and the others with aiding and abetting.

The council was created in 2006 to replace the former UN Human Rights Commission, and The Bahamas began serving its three-year term on the HCR on January 1, 2019.