(NNPA)–“What were they thinking?!”
Standing alongside their attorney, Michael Brown’s parents stood on the streets of Geneva, Switzerland, calling for peaceful protest from supporters in Ferguson, and declaring that they “want the world to know” what’s going on in Ferguson.
“We need answers and we need action. And we have to bring it to the U.N. so they can expose it to the rest of the world, what’s going on in small town Ferguson.”
As I took in flaming red hair of Michal’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, I thought it appropriately reflected the tamed anger and indignation of a mother’s loss of her child. Better yet, the fiery color embodied the tensions and presently subdued rage of a community that has grown weary of the deaths of their unarmed children.
I wondered if their presence in Geneva was a publicity stunt or rather some brilliant strategy that slipped by all of us who have been looking on.
It is almost three months to the day of the death of their son. They, like the rest of the nation, are waiting for the grand jury decision on whether police officer Wilson will be indicted on criminal charges. Ms. McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr. have literally moved from the streets to the world stage; and with a bright spotlight on the United States, they are calling for global intervention.
Their petition suggests that the U.S. is a territory where human rights violations are rampant. Yes, it seems hard to believe; but the U.S. might just be put under a microscope where typically they are the ones who callout the violations of other nations.
It has been reported that the parents of Michael Brown gave an emotional testimony on Tuesday, November 11, in a closed meeting proceeding, before the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT).
What is CAT, and how in the world did Michael’s parents end up in Switzerland before them?
According to its website, the Committee Against Torture (CAT , also referenced here as the Committee) is a group of 10 independent specialists, including China and the U.S., that monitors the execution of the human rights rules under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as evidence by activities of State parties. State parties are countries or nations that have signed on to be subject to the jurisdiction, or authority, of the Committee.
The United States agreed to be subject to CAT back in 1988. The Committee is in its 53rd session at the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, running from November 3 – 28, 2014.
The parents of Michael Brown were able to come before the Committee through one of the three main procedures for bringing a complaint of a violation of the provisions of any one of several human rights treaty. The legal experts assisting the parents used the individual communications avenue under Article 22 of the Convention to get them in the door.
The Committee has to consider communications received by an individual against whom there have been alleged human rights violation or on behalf of the person who was allegedly violated. The Committee will not consider any individual complaint unless there is clear proof that “the individual has exhausted all available domestic remedies.”
For purposes of review the complaint must cite to “torture.” In the international legal sphere, torture means “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as … punishing him for an act he … has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of (or with the consent or acquiescence) of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
St. Louis University School of Law’s Assistant Professor Justin Hansford, a 2003 graduate of Howard University and 2007 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, was one of the co-authors of the brief. Hansford said, “…the Convention Against Torture,… is the correct location for claims of police violence.”
Michael Brown’s parents feel justified under the U.N. definition of torture to bring the actions of Ferguson before the international community; and to ask the world to evaluate and help fix (1) the problem of police brutality against suspects tainted by any type of discrimination which causes pain and suffering and is done directly at the hands of law enforcement or as a result of orders given to them by their superiors; and (2) to have Officer Darren Wilson accountable and arrested—perhaps extradited even—for his act of torture.
A brief, or complaint, was submitted by a team of legal experts to the Committee. It stated that the local authorities in Ferguson have continually deprived persons of their human rights and have knowingly carried out violations in the past.
The brief also asks for recommendations that would apply to the entire United States, including one where the attorney general and Department of Justice “must conduct a nationwide investigation of systematic police brutality and harassment in black and brown communities, and youth in particular.” They also ask that the procedure and findings of this investigation “must be made publicly available.”
The United Nations says that the recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,’ and that one shall not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
By far one of the more interesting aspects of this likely review of U.S. law enforcement proceedings by CAT is that, under Article 14 of the U.N. rules, the United States, if found to be a violator, must ensure that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress. Moreover, in the event that the victim dies, the victim (Michael Brown via his family) is entitled to an enforceable right of fair and adequate compensation.
The public has witnessed several stunts over the last two years in controversial legal cases involving the deaths of unarmed teens and adults.
The outcome of this global strategy for justice in Ferguson, and across the United States, remains to be seen.
What we can be assured of is that the parents of Michael Brown, and the legal network that supports the cry for solutions, are leaving no stone unturned.