UN rights chief: Justice at stake in trial over Floyd death

In this screen grab from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, defendant former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, and Nelson's assistant Amy Voss, back, listen as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill presides over jury selection in the trial of Chauvin Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

GENEVA – The U.N. human rights chief said Friday that the U.S. trial over the killing of George Floyd presents a “crucial, defining opportunity for justice” that has been denied to countless other families, urging efforts to address the root causes of racial discrimination.

Michelle Bachelet highlighted the case during a Human Rights Council session focusing on systematic discrimination against people of African descent, saying she met last week with family members of such people killed by law enforcement officials. Her office declined to specify who they were, citing confidentiality agreements.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for about nine minutes.

“Ten months after the killing of George Floyd set off new waves of outrage and demands for change across the world, a key trial related to his killing is now beginning,” Bachelet said. “But this crucial, defining opportunity for justice is denied to countless other families."

“So many cases involving deaths of people of African descent never make it to court, and the pain of so many families goes unacknowledged or even denied,” she said.

During her meetings last week, relatives of victims told her of the ongoing trauma faced by the loss of a child or sibling "so suddenly and violently,” Bachelet said. She cited their struggles with police and judicial authorities to achieve justice.

Bachelet said police brutality and racial discrimination continue against people of African descent, despite heightened visibility about the issues.

“To end racial injustice in law enforcement, we cannot simply see the tip of the iceberg, we must face the mass below the surface," she said. “We must address the legacies of enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, and its context of colonialism.”