In the wake of a grand jury decision in New York yesterday not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed man, in July, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the United States to do “anything possible to respond to demands of greater accountability.”
“We are obviously aware of what is going on here in our backyard,” said UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric responding to questions at the daily press briefing at UN Headquarters. He said the Secretary-General’s thoughts are with the families of Mr. Garner, a Staten Island resident, and the people of New York.
“I think the case is again focusing on the attention of accountability of law enforcement officials,” he added, welcoming the announcement by the US Justice Department of opening a civil rights investigation in the case.
“I think I would just add that we’ve seen a lot of demonstrations here in New York. [Mr. Ban] would urge the [protestors] to demonstrate peacefully, and for the authorities for the respect of those demonstrators to do so peacefully,” the spokesperson said.
This statement echoes a call the UN chief made last week following a grand jury decision, this one in Ferguson, Missouri, to absolve a white police office in the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown back in August. Mr. Garner was also African American.
That decision sparked major protests in several US cities. Amid reports that many of the protests in and around Ferguson had turned violent, Mr. Ban appealed to all those demonstrating against the grand jury's verdict “to make their voices heard peacefully and to refrain from violence.”
Also last week, the UN human rights chief expressed deep concern about the “disproportionate number of young African-Americans who die in encounters with police officers, as well as the disproportionate number of African Americans in US prisons and the disproportionate number of African-Americans on Death Row.”
“It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.