An image from outside of the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul

Philando Castile and the importance of impartial investigations

By Carolina Rivadeneira, Associate Field Organizer

In an important step towards transparency and accountability, Minnesota prosecutors have charged officer Jeronimo Yanez with second degree manslaughter and two felonies for the July 6th shooting and killing of Philando Castile on in Falcon Heights, St Paul, MN. This case has once again highlighted the use of unnecessary or excessive force by police, that has set off a long-overdue conversation on race, policing and justice as well as protests around the country.

In 2015 Amnesty International released its report, Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States, which found that all 50 states and the District of Columbia do not have laws concerning lethal force that meet international standards. AIUSA has repeatedly called for laws that meet international human rights standards regarding the use of lethal force. We believe that justice for #PhilandoCastile and other victims of police violence can happen with reform of lethal force laws.

Philando Castile’s case is extremely important, as it reiterates that independent investigations are necessary and must be supported through the years to come. Special prosecutor Don Lewis joined the legal team in Minnesota, who helped determine that the use of deadly force by Officer Yanez was not justified. The broad or otherwise inadequate language of state laws make accountability impossible when police unlawfully kill civilians. In Minnesota there have been at least 150-police related deaths since 2000. Thus, this decision will set an important precedent when it comes to accountability for cases involving the unlawful use of lethal force.

The use of lethal force by law enforcement officers raises serious human rights concerns, when it comes to the right to life, the right to security of the person, the right to freedom from discrimination and the right to equal protection of the law. The United States has a legal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill these human rights. In July, Amnesty activists of local group 37 in the Twin Cities mobilized and supported week-long demonstrations outside the governor’s mansion. As activists and allies, we must show up stronger and unified. We have the right to protest and the responsibility to organize and push the state towards justice.

For more on how to get directly involved on police accountability in the state of Minnesota, e-mail Carolina Rivadeneira at

We've been fighting the bad guys since 1961 - you can join us! Official Amnesty International USA profile.

We've been fighting the bad guys since 1961 - you can join us! Official Amnesty International USA profile.