U.N. Experts Make Historic Visit to Minnesota

Amanda Lyons '09, executive director of the Human Rights Center, and Elina Castillo-Jiménez, Human Rights Center Weissbrodt Fellow, recently spoke to us about how they collaborated with University and community partners to invite the United Nations to Minneapolis. 

The eyes of the world were on Minnesota three years ago when George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officers. Acknowledging the persistent and systemic violence against Black people at the hands of law enforcement, and under pressure from advocates demanding action, the United Nations Human Rights Council launched a new mechanism in 2021 to investigate the root causes of these human rights violations in the United States and around the world. 

Yet even though the new body was informally called the “U.N. George Floyd Mechanism,” it seemed unlikely that the 12-day country visit would include the Twin Cities. Minnesota community leaders swung into action, supported by human rights experts at University of Minnesota and Minnesota Law. They collaborated to call on the U.N. International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice in the Context of Law Enforcement (UN-EMLER) to put Minneapolis on its agenda. In April, the mechanism announced that it would visit Minneapolis, in addition to Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. 

Amanda Lyons ’09
Executive Director, Human Rights Center & Lecturer in Law