In 2020, the Covid-19 emergency exacerbated arbitrary and heavy-handed policing practices, particularly when enforcing curfews, lockdowns and other public health-related measures. Poor and underprivileged people, as well as persons belonging to specific racial and ethnic groups that are historically discriminated against, have been disproportionately affected and targeted by law enforcement abuse.
In many of these cases, the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment has been violated. The unlawful killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, United States, sparked a global wave of protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Family members of victims of police killings and civil society organisations from around the world called on the UN Human Rights Council to mandate an independent inquiry into the recent history of racist policing across the US and allegations of widespread police brutality during the repression of nationwide protests.
3 questions to the US government after the death of George Floyd
The unlawful killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, United States, sparked a global wave of protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The movement led to calls for reform of police units known for their systematic abusive practices. In Nigeria, the #ENDSARS Campaign led to reforms towards a torture-free police structure, including the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), as urged by the OMCT and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) in October 2020.
The OMCT and the Belarusian Human Rights Center Viasna played a crucial role in documenting a deliberate policy of cruelty and torture against peaceful protesters in the aftermath of the August 9, 2020 presidential elections in Belarus. An estimated 2000 people were subjected to torture and ill-treatment during and after violent, arbitrary, and indiscriminate arrests, with no respect for due process. The scope of these human rights violations was so large that they amounted to crimes against humanity.
In 2020, the Covid-19 emergency exacerbated arbitrary and heavy-handed policing practices, when enforcing curfews, lockdowns and other public health-related measures.
In 2019 we started witnessing a worrying pattern of excessive use of force in Latin America, which escalated in 2020. A report published by the OMCT and the Colombian Coalition against Torture (CCCT) in June 2020, “Social protests and excessive use of force in Colombia: An analysis from the lens of the prohibition of torture”, documented mass arbitrary detentions and the excessive use of force, including firearms and less-lethal weapons, during the enforcement of sanitary rules and against protesters, in particular during the 2019 National Strike.
Legal action by SOS-Torture Network members in Colombia contributed to a landmark Supreme Court ruling that enjoins the authorities to protect demonstrators and the right to peaceful assembly. In Chile, the International Observation Mission report, published in January 2020, highlighted grave human rights violations committed in the framework of the protests initiated in October 2019, including the killing of 27 people and the deliberate use of rubber bullets and tear gas canisters that led to over 360 people losing their sight.
Support our work against police violence.