Human Rights Council President names new chair of racial justice panel


The President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Omar Zniber (Morocco), has appointed Akua Kuenyehia of Ghana as chairperson of the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement.

Ms. Kuenyehia’s appointment follows the resignation of Yvonne Mokgoro of South Africa as chairperson of the Expert Mechanism, which was created by the Human Rights Council to examine the “root causes of systemic racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system… racial profiling and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials against Africans and people of African descent.”

Ms. Kuenyehia is a former judge who served as first vice-president of the International Criminal Court (ICC) from 2003-2015.

A former member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Ms. Kuenyehia is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Ghana and has extensive experience as a solicitor, advocate, and law teacher. She was the first female law lecturer and first female Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana, where she taught criminal law, gender and the law, international human rights law and public international law. She also serves as president of Mountcrest University College in Accra, Ghana, and is a visiting professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and at Temple Law School and Pennsylvania State University in the United States of America.

Ms. Kuenyehia is a founder of the Legal Aid Centre for Indigent Women under the auspices of the Ghana chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and a founding member of Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF). She is also a former member of the Board of Directors of the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development of the Canadian Government in Montreal, Canada, a member of the Board of Directors of the Women Law and Development Institute in Washington, D.C., and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Women in Law and Development in Africa, based in Harare, Zimbabwe. She holds law degrees from the University of Ghana and Oxford University.

Ms. Kuenyehia joins Tracie L. Keesee (United States of America) and Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) who were appointed to the three-member panel in 2021.

The Expert Mechanism is due to present its third annual report to the 57th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2024, and subsequently transmit it to the United Nations General Assembly. The theme of this report will be justice, accountability and redress.

The Expert Mechanism was established on 13 July 2021 by resolution 47/21 of the Human Rights Council in which it decided to establish a body to examine systemic racism and the excessive use of force, and other violations of international human rights law, against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement officials worldwide.

This followed an urgent debate in the Human Rights Council in June 2020 on “current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests” following the murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020.

Since its establishment, the Expert Mechanism has undertaken country missions to Brazil (27 November to 8 December 2023), the United States of America (24 April to 5 May 2023) and Sweden (31 October to 4 November 2022). It is shortly to undertake a country mission to Italy (2 to 10 May 2024).

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