Calls for Accountability Grow as HRD Quianna Canada Condemns Shooting of Trans Organizer, Banko Brown
To Honorable Olivier De Schutter and the Esteemed Members of the Human Rights Committee,
I am writing to urge you to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of Banko Brown, an American trans organizer, whose life was taken by a security guard on April 27, 2023. The tragic event has left not only his loved ones, but also the entire LGBTQ community he was fighting for, devastated and fearful for their safety.
The Walgreens security guard stopped Brown for shoplifting, and afterwards, a confrontation ensued. During the confrontation, the security guard fatally shot Brown. Several US security guards have gunned down shoplifters in the US, raising the question as to whether shoplifting is now punishable by death in the nation.
Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life. It also provides for specific conditions for the imposition of the death penalty with respect to countries that have not yet abolished it. Although the US ratified the Covenant on June 08, 1992, individual citizens cannot bring a complaint under the protocol.
The Human Rights Committee has articulated that countries such as the US—that have not abolished the death penalty—only may impose the death penalty for the most serious crimes. This means the US must interpret the term “most serious crimes” restrictively and should appertain only to crimes of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing. Evidence indicates that Brown was unarmed. Crimes not resulting directly and intentionally in death, such as economic crimes, can never serve as the basis for the imposition of the death penalty under Article 6.
Calls for Accountability Grow as HRD Quianna Canada Condemns Shooting of Trans Organizer, Banko Brown and Strangulation of Jordan Neely
The murder of Brown is not just a crime against an individual, but an attack on the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law. As with Jordan Neely, Brown could not fully enjoy his rights, such as the right to food, because he could not afford to buy adequate food. I would even go so far as to say that Brown was also unable to obtain food because of the persistent patterns of discrimination in political and social participation in the US.
How the U.S. Government Failed Brown:
Right to Adequate Housing: the US Government has not fulfilled its obligation to protect homeless persons nationwide. As per the UN, States should regulate the housing and rental markets in a way that promotes and protects the right to adequate housing.
Right to Adequate Food: Food was not available, accessible or adequate for Brown. While there is no right to be fed by the Government, Brown does have a right to feed himself in dignity (Right to Adequate Food, p. 3). Whenever individuals or groups are unable, for reasons beyond their control, to enjoy the right to food by the means at their disposal, the US has the obligation to provide. An example provided by the UN is providing food assistance or ensuring social safety nets for the most deprived.
Links between Brown’s Human Right to Food and Other human rights:
The right to life. When people are not able to feed themselves, they face the risk of death by starvation, malnutrition or resulting illnesses.
The murder of Brown and Neely sends a chilling message to other houseless individuals that their lives are at risk. Indeed, the murder of impoverished persons is a broader problem with vigilante justice in the US. It may indicate a lack of respect for human rights, embolden a culture of impunity for those who commit crimes against homeless persons, or may indicate state-sanctioned violence.
As the world’s leading intergovernmental organization promoting peace, justice, and human rights, the UN has a responsibility to investigate such cases and hold those responsible accountable. The UN must send a strong message that the murder of homeless persons will not be tolerated and that those responsible must face justice.
I therefore call on the UN to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the murder Brown and Neely, and to seek information as to why the perpetrators are not being brought to justice. It is critical that the UN take action to prevent further attacks on homeless persons in the US, and to uphold the values of democracy, freedom, and justice that are at the core of its mission.
Journey to the Center