The International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement
In 2021, further to the
presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on racial justice and equality which introduces a four-point agenda to end systemic racism and human rights violations by law enforcement against Africans and people of African descent, the Human Rights Council established the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement.
About the mandate
The Expert Mechanism’s mandate is detailed in
resolution 47/21. It is established “in order to further transformative change for racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement globally, especially where relating to the legacies of colonialism and the Transatlantic slave trade in enslaved Africans, to investigate Governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests and all violations of international human rights law and to contribute to accountability and redress for victims”.
The Expert Mechanism has a three-year mandate, within the purview of its mandate, to advance racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement in all parts of the world by, inter alia, conducting country visits, inclusive outreach and consultations with States, directly affected individuals and communities, and other stakeholders, and taking into account an intersectional approach by;
- Examining systemic racism, including as it relates to structural and institutional racism, faced by Africans and people of African descent, the excessive use of force and other violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement officials, including with regard to patterns, policies, processes and specific incidents, such as those identified in the
report of the High Commissioner and relevant conference room paper
- Examining the root causes of systemic racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, the excessive use of force, racial profiling and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials against Africans and people of African descent, and how domestic law, policy and practices may lead to disproportionate and widespread interaction between law enforcement officers and Africans and people of African descent;
- Making recommendations regarding how domestic legal regimes on the use of force by law enforcement officials can be brought into line with the applicable human rights standards, such as the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement, and ensure that law enforcement officials receive appropriate human rights training to ensure that they comply with obligations under international law;
- Making recommendations on the collection and publication of data, with strict safeguards and in line with international law, disaggregated by victims’ race or ethnic origin, on deaths and serious injuries by law enforcement officials and related prosecutions and convictions, as well as any disciplinary actions, to drive and assess responses to systemic racism in the area of law enforcement and the criminal justice system;
- Examining any nexus between supremacist movements and actors within law enforcement and the criminal justice system;
- Making recommendations with regard to addressing systemic racism, in law enforcement and the criminal justice systems, closing trust deficits, strengthening institutional oversight, adopting alternative and complementary methods to policing and the use of force, and encouraging stocktaking of lessons learned;
- Making recommendations on the concrete steps needed to ensure access to justice, accountability and redress for excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials against Africans and people of African descent, including independent and well-resourced mechanisms to support victims of human rights violations by law enforcement officials, their families and communities;
- Monitoring the implementation of recommendations on ending impunity for violations by law enforcement officials emanating from the report of the High Commissioner, and identifying obstacles to their full implementation;
- Coordinating its work and further strengthening its participation, engagement and cooperation, as appropriate, with all relevant United Nations mechanisms, bodies and processes, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the United Nations
Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice regional human rights mechanisms and national human rights institutions.
About the members
16 December 2021, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed Justice Yvonne Mokgoro; Dr. Tracie Keesee and Professor Juan Méndez to serve as experts on the Expert Mechanism. Justice Mokgoro serves as chairperson of the Expert Mechanism.
Yvonne Mokgoro (South Africa) is a former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from its inception in 1994 until the end of her 15-year term in 2009. She also served simultaneously on the South African Law Reform Commission (1995-2011 – as its Chairperson from 2000-2011) and President of Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) (1995-2005). Justice Mokgoro is the current Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and after her term on the South Africa Constitutional Court, she served as Acting Justice at the Lesotho Appeals Court and the Namibia Supreme Court. In November 2020, she completed her 4-year non-renewable term as Chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council. She has held a number of academic positions, including at the University of Bophuthatswana, University of the Western Cape and University of Pretoria and has taught in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands.
Tracie L. Keesee (United States of America) served for 25 years in the Denver Police Department (retired Jan 2015). She subsequently served as New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Deputy Commissioner of Training (Feb 2016-Jan 2018) and as NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion (Jan 2018-Mar 2019). She served as Project Director of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice - a Department of Justice project designed to improve relationships and increase trust between minority communities and the criminal justice system. (Jan 2015-Feb 2016). She was also Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado Denver, teaching courses on race, crime and justice. She is currently Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Justice Initiatives of the Center For Policing Equity, which promotes police transparency and accountability. Additionally, she works closely with communities to ensure their voice and representation are centered in the co-production of public safety.
Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) is professor of human rights law in residence at the American University-Washington College of Law and member of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. He was the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (2010-2016); former Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide (2004-2007) and concurrently President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (2004-2009), as well as former Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2000-2003) and its President in 2002. Professor Méndez was elected commissioner to the International Commission of Jurists in January 2017 and has been a Special Advisor on Crime Prevention to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2009-2011). He also worked with Human Rights Watch for 15 years and was the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (1996-1999).
The Expert Mechanism will submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council in September 2022; which will also be transmitted to the General Assembly.