As the country waits for the grand jury in Ferguson to conclude its investigation into the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, the slain teen's parents are getting ready to speak to an audience. Michael Brown's parents will speak at a United Nations meeting on torture in Geneva, Switzerland, but the focus of their speech will be civil rights violations, police violence, and racial profiling — topics that they're all too familiar with. Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr.'s trip is being sponsored by the U.S. Human Rights Network, and will help reexamine the Ferguson case as a human rights violation.
McSpadden and Brown Sr. are set to address the 53rd Session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva on Nov. 12 and 13, according to Justin Hansford, a professor who is helping to organize their trip. Hansford, who is an assistant professor of law at St. Louis University, and other activists are hoping to bring the Ferguson discussion to a broader stage with the message that police violence is a human rights issue. In fact, that's the slogan for fergusontogeneva.org, a website they've created to raise funds for bringing protestors from Ferguson to the U.N. meeting in Geneva. The site states their mission statement:
In the absence of justice from the local, state, and federal government, the family of Michael Brown and Ferguson protesters are ready to take our case before the global community.... The goal is not only to achieve justice in Ferguson, but to unite governments around the world against the human rights violations that result from racial profiling and police violence.
The mission makes sense, since the U.N. Committee Against Torture commonly addresses police brutality cases. And the militarized response to the protests in Ferguson deserves to be examined under the committee's definition of torture, which is as follows:
Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person 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...
Hansford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the committee will help influence law enforcement authorities to reform its often aggressive and militarized approach when it comes to containing civil unrest. As for the Ferguson case, he hopes that "the world community will look at it through a human rights lens this time."
Meanwhile, the grand jury looking into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson is expected to present a decision in mid-to-late November on whether or not Wilson will face charges. But according to the Washington Post, federal civil rights charges against Wilson, which is what protestors and race activists are demanding, are not likely.
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