Benjamin Crump and S. Lee Merritt, the renowned attorneys representing the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, want the United Nations Human Rights Commission to investigate this string of deaths that have sparked nationwide outrage.
In a Zoom press conference organized by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Friday, Merritt told reporters that in addition to asking local and congressional leaders to investigate the three incidents in Georgia, Louisville, and Minneapolis, they’re calling on the United Nations to look into the three recent high-profile deaths of black Americans. Arbery was killed by a white civilian as he jogged in a suburban Georgia neighborhood, and Taylor and Floyd died at the hands of police officers.
“We will be asking for the United Nations Human Rights Commission to consider hearing the cases of Ahmaud Arbery, of Breonna Taylor, of George Floyd as well,” Merritt said.
“This pandemic has been highlighted now by these three horrific cases,” Crump added. “It draws with laser focus the danger of being black in America [and] the fact that it is open season on our children and our loved ones by the people who are supposed to protect and serve us.”
The U.N. has a history of calling out the U.S. over issues of racial justice.
In 2014, a panel for the world’s governing body openly questioned the fairness of the U.S. justice system just days after a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
In 2015, the U.N.’s Human Rights Council published a blistering review of the nation’s record on human rights. The report cited rights violations at Guantanamo Bay, the continued use of the death penalty, and most notably at the time, repeated incidents of police brutality and misconduct.
At the time, James Cadogan, a senior counselor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, told the U.N. that the report had given the nation’s leaders renewed purpose in fixing the systematic issues plaguing the country.
“The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio, and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a longstanding and critical national debate about the evenhanded administration of justice: These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress – through both dialogue and action,” he said at the time.
The U.N. has long kept an eye on abuses in the justice system. The organization has held the United Nations Chiefs of Police Summit (UNCOPS) annually since 2016, police leaders and senior officers around the world gather at the U.N. Headquarters to discuss their civic duties to the public, improving ways to prevent crime, and sustaining peace in their communities. This year’s summit, which was set to take place next month, was just postponed indefinitely because of COVID-19 concerns.
Even if the U.N. doesn’t take part in the case, Crump and Merritt said they are prepared to work with partners within the black community to take matters into their own hands.
“We will be asking for economic boycotts and sanctions in these communities where these atrocities continue to occur,” Merritt said. “We will be demanding from both our local leaders and our corporate investors and backers to take time to launch a measured and direct campaign in these communities where injustice persists.”
Cover: In this Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, photo, Lee Merritt calls for a higher charge hours after Temple Police Officer Carmen DeCruz was charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting on Dec. 2 of 28-year-old Michael Dean. (Joel Valley/The Temple Daily Telegram via AP)