Every Mother's Son: Police Brutality as a Human Rights Issue
by Andrea Holley, Manager of Outreach and Public Education, Human Rights Watch
For many people in the United States today, the question of police brutality is one of the most pressing human rights issues. Police killings of young men of color are a well- documented and troubling phenomenon that raises the issue of "state-on-society violence" that is addressed in several of the other films in the Human Rights Video Project collection. More and more, families are banding together to investigate these killings and bring the truth to light.
Police and military behavior is governed by a series of documents in international law. There is the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. There are additional documents on the Human Rights in the Administration of Justice section of the UN's website covering the administration of justice, the role of lawyers and prosecutors, and the handling of juveniles in custody. In the United States, most cities have the equivalent of a civilian review board, which can independently investigate reports of police brutality and file claims with the courts for official investigations and even request indictments. However, there is an increasing set of limitations being placed on such bodies to the point that in some cases they are completely disabled or disbanded.
Nonetheless, the parents of those murdered continue to take action against those they believe guilty of killing their children. The shocking similarities among the stories shared in the film intimate that there is a pattern to these killings and that the statistics associated with this type of violence must parallel the anecdotal evidence. Regardless of data, the title of the film rightly expresses the sentiment of these activist families: it could happen to anyone, indeed every mother's son.