Representing Brown and Boyd’s families, the attorneys are pursuing one last avenue for justice for those impacted by fatal police violence. This filing marks a first-of-its-kind legal endeavor, as the RFKHR and Howard University team bring issues of systemic police violence in the United States to an international human rights body.
“Michael Brown and Rekia Boyd’s killings highlight the nightmare of policing in the United States,” said Delia Addo-Yobo, staff attorney at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and co-author of the IACHR briefs. “Mr. Brown and Ms. Boyd’s deaths, and the subsequent failings of the government to bring justice to their families, are emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates every level of the U.S. criminal legal system.”
“These briefs are not just legal documents; they are powerful testaments to the urgent need for accountability and systemic change,” said Justin Hansford, founding director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University. “As we strive for justice, we stand firmly committed to defending human rights and dismantling the structures of oppression that perpetuate such devastating injustices.”
This IACHR filing is the latest step in a years-long legal journey. In 2015, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights filed two separate petitions on behalf of Brown’s family and Boyd’s family, urging the IACHR to consider the cases. In 2022, the IACHR determined that the two petitions raised colorable claims that the United States’ failure to hold the officers accountable violated rights guaranteed under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The RFKHR and Howard University team are moving forward with the goal of an in-person IACHR hearing that would allow family members to testify.
“Years after the killings of their loved ones, every U.S. mechanism for justice has failed the Brown and Boyd families,” said Wade McMullen, SVP of Programs and Legal Strategy at RFKHR. “This is really the only remedy that we have left. International law recognizes different rights and principles, allowing us to address the heart of the issue and granting survivors the chance to seek accountability in a public forum.”
“While the U.S. Government tries to move on, we continue to fight for Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, and their families,” said Maggie Ellinger-Locke, staff attorney at the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center. “These state killings will not just disappear into history books. We are hopeful that the Commission will do the right thing, grant us a hearing, and issue a report in favor of justice. These families have suffered for too long without any measure of accountability.”
We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.
About Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center
The Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center is Howard University’s flagship institutional setting for the study and practice of civil rights, human rights, and racial justice law and advocacy. We seek to obtain the goal of racial justice by using a human rights framework and a social movement centered approach. The center and its lawyers employ engaged research when fighting the battle of ideas in the ivory tower, movement lawyering when fighting for rights in the courts, the congress, and other halls of power, and community organizing when fighting to build power in Black communities.