Engagement with UN Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement (UN EMLER)

The Center for Constitutional Rights has a strong practice of engaging with international human rights bodies to highlight the issues we work on and draw attention to the experiences of those most impacted by the U.S. government’s failures to protect and uphold human rights. Independent human rights experts regularly review whether governments are in compliance with their human rights obligations. The Center for Constitutional Rights engages with these experts by drafting shadow reports and other advocacy materials, providing testimony, lobbying, and working in coalition with our partners to use these opportunities to highlight serious human rights violations.

In 2021, the UN Human Rights Council established the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement (UN EMLER) in response to the mass popular uprisings following the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. After millions of people mobilized to form the largest mass movement against police violence and racial injustice in U.S. history, the international community recognized the urgent need for "transformative change for racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement globally, especially where relating to the legacies of colonialism and the Transatlantic slave trade in enslaved Africans." UN EMLER is conducting a country visit to the United States, April 24-May 5, where the experts will be meeting with grassroots organizations, impacted people, and organizers demanding the reordering of society to account for historical injustices and to guarantee safety for Africans and people of African descent. The country visit is coordinated by the UN Anti-Racism Coalition (UN ARC), of which the Center for Constitutional Rights is a proud member along with movement partners around the world.


To assist in the UN EMLER's country visit to the United States, the Center for Constitutional Rights and our partners submitted the following briefing papers:

  • "Beyond Data & Reform: How UN EMLER can promote Community Safety through Abolition"
    • Together with the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), the Center for Constitutional Rights prepared a submission calling on the UN EMLER to contend with and lend support to a growing movement for the abolition of the prison industrial complex, and to the reordering of society necessary to account for historical injustices and to guarantee safety for Africans and people of African descent. The submission offers a case study of ongoing litigation and community organizing efforts to reform a core element of the U.S. criminal legal system - discriminatory policing. The case study on the evolution of Stop & Frisk in New York City exemplifies the phenomenon of a system adapting to reform. Next, the submission touches briefly on the criminalization of the Black freedom struggle and the U.S. government’s deliberate attempt to deter people from protesting for racial justice and meaningful accountability for state violence. The partners then offer the Invest/Divest Framework one of the six central pillars of the Movement for Black Lives’ 2016 policy platform. Finally, we introduce the BREATHE Act, a piece of omnibus legislation that offers a rights-based, people-centered approach to community safety. Read our full submission here
  • Submission on Death by Incarceration
    • Together with a number of organizations across the country*, the Center for Constitutional Rights prepared a submission describing the United States’ racially discriminatory policy and practice of Death by Incarceration, more commonly known as life sentences. It supplements a complaint several organizations sent to UN independent experts on September 15, 2022, which was also submitted to EMLER. The submission describes these sentences as a form of torture prohibited under international law and urges EMLER to call for an end to all Death-by-Incarceration sentences in the United States.

      The submission describes Death by Incarceration as the devastating consequence of a cruel and racially discriminatory criminal legal system that begins with violent policing and ends with the permanent abandonment of people in prisons, where lives—particularly Black lives—are cut short by the social, medical, and psychological consequences of incarceration. This sentence impacts not only individuals, but entire communities, rupturing family ties and perpetuating intergenerational cycles of poverty and pain. This system is not driven by respect for life. It is not designed to address harm, violence, and its root causes, but compounds them, and in fact diverts resources and political will away from systems that do. Instead, it is rooted in the legacy of slavery and racial hierarchy in the United States and is designed to satisfy the racist political pressure to be tough on crime. Read our full submission here. 

      *Submission partners include: Abolitionist Law Center, Amistad Law Project, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Center for Constitutional Rights, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Andy and Gwen Stern Community Lawyering Clinic, DROP LWOP Coalition, Families United to End LWOP, Release Aging People in Prison, Right to Redemption, and The Sentencing Project.


Last modified 

April 28, 2023