This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UN rights office highlights policing reforms to address systemic racism
Radical policing reforms are needed to address systemic racism affecting people of African descent around the world, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday, as her office published a series of recommendations prompted by the 2020 killing of George Floyd.
Among the new measures proposed, Ms. Bachelet’s Office urged the authorities to reassess whether officers should continue to be the first responders to individuals with mental health problems.
The High Commissioner’s report on racial justice and equality, which followed the murder of George Floyd, collected information on more than 190 cases where people had died in police custody around the world.
It uncovered many similarities and patterns – such as the obstacles victims’ families encounter in trying to access justice – said Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“Accountability is crucial and I think families do have some form of satisfaction in seeing someone in prison for a crime that is as violent as the murder of George Floyd, which we saw on video tape. But of course there are so many cases where there isn’t a video tape and there are even cases where there are video tapes but justice is not being dealt in those cases.”
The report was set in motion after international outrage at the killing of US citizen George Floyd in Minnesota last May. His death was caused by police officer Derek Chauvin, who was captured on video kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.
After a six-week trial earlier this year, Mr. Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder and last week sentenced to more than 22 years in prison.
Abuse of rights activists in China remains endemic, says independent expert
Staying with human rights, a top UN independent expert on Monday highlighted concerns that activists in China were being abused and sentenced to long prison terms or house arrest.
Mary Lawlor, UN independent expert on human rights defenders, said that for doing “peaceful human rights work”, individuals were allegedly being denied access to medical treatment, lawyers and their families.
She urged the Chinese authorities “to immediately release” those in detention and ensure that they can continue their “meaningful and necessary” work “without fear of retribution of any kind, including against their relatives”.
“Countless reports” indicated that the mistreatment of human rights defenders in Chinese custody remained “endemic” and may amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Ms. Lawlor said in a statement.
Rights defenders who have been forcibly disappeared include Gao Zhisheng while others, including Guo Hongwei, have died in prison, Ms. Lawlor said, adding that she was in contact with the Chinese authorities on the matter.
UN health agency urges AI to be used in public interest in all countries
The UN health agency on Monday issued its first guidance on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in medical settings, stressing that “ethics and human rights” should guide how it is designed and deployed.
The report by the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that artificial intelligence is already used widely in wealthy countries to speed up accurate diagnosis and screening for diseases.
The technology also supports major public health interventions, such as disease surveillance and outbreak response.
Despite these benefits, the report’s authors cautioned against overestimating the benefits of smart machines, especially when they come at the expense of universal health coverage.
Concerns were also expressed over the fact that artificial intelligence systems had been built on data collected from high-income countries and it “may not perform well” in poorer nations.
WHO added that although private and public investment of the sector was critical, the unregulated use of artificial intelligence could jeopardize the rights of patients and communities by giving technology companies or governments the opportunity to carry out “surveillance and social control”.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.