15 October 2021

Bereaved families in the UK and beyond have had to fight for accountability and struggled to have their voices heard. The UN must put victim’s families at the heart of this important process.

 – Marcia Rigg, campaigner and sister of Sean Rigg

Marcia Rigg delivered a joint statement on the behalf of INQUEST, the International Service for Human Rights, and United Families and Friends Campaign at a debate during the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 5 October 2021.

She called for states to ensure their work against systemic racism, including a new independent international expert mechanism, ensures the voices of families are heard.

Marcia, campaigner and INQUEST Family Reference Group member, shared details of her brother Sean Rigg’s death in 2008. She highlighted the prolonged legal battles her family faced which, despite a critical inquest and impactful campaigning, ultimately ended with all officers involved being cleared of any wrongdoing in 2019.

Following the murder of George Floyd in the US, Marcia and other bereaved families from around the world spoke with the UN High Commissioner about their experiences. In her statement Marcia discussed the striking similarities between their experiences, and the importance of the Commissioners resulting report to the Council.

The High Commissioner’s report called on states including the UK to “end impunity” for human rights violations against Black people by police officers and reverse the “cultures of denial” towards systemic racism. Subsequently, in July of this year, the Council created an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and promote racial justice and equality for Africans and those of African descent.

The mechanism will be made up of three experts on law enforcement and human rights, and will have a mandate to pursue transformative change on racial justice in the context of law enforcement globally. The mechanism is also mandated to consider the legacies of colonialism and the Transatlantic slave trade, to investigate governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests and potential violations of international human rights law.

The Council also mandated annual reporting of the High Commissioner on systemic racism and violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies. The annual reporting and the expert mechanism will contribute to the accountability and redress for victims.

From June 2022, the High Commissioner and the new expert mechanism will present their written annual reports to the Council, followed by a debate that prioritises the participation of directly affected individuals and communities.

INQUEST will continue to monitor and work to influence these processes, to challenge the UK Government to take seriously the international work to end systemic racism and pursue a transformative racial justice agenda.