GENEVA – The UN human rights chief, in a landmark report released after the murder of George Floyd in the United States, urges countries around the world to do more to help end discrimination, violence and systemic racism against people of African descent and to “make amends” to them, including through reparations.
The report by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, offers a comprehensive look at the roots of centuries of abuse suffered by Africans and people of African descent, including the transatlantic slave trade . He seeks a “transformative” approach to deal with his continuing impact today.
The report, which has been in preparation for a year, hopes to build on the recent and intensified worldwide examination of the scourge of racism and its impact on people of African descent, as evidenced by the high-profile murders of blacks. unarmed in the United States. and elsewhere.
“There is a momentous opportunity today to make a turning point for racial equality and justice,” the report said.
The report aims to accelerate action by countries to end racial injustice; end impunity for police rights violations; ensure that people of African descent and those who speak out against racism are heard; and face the wrongs of the past through accountability and redress.
“I call on all states to stop denying – and start dismantling – racism; end impunity and build confidence; listen to the voices of people of African descent; and confront the legacies of the past and bring redress, ”Bachelet said in a video statement.
While addressing the issue of reparation in its most explicit way to date, Bachelet suggested that monetary compensation alone is not enough and would be part of a package to help rectify or redress injustices.
“Reparations should not only be equated with financial compensation,” she wrote, adding that they should include restitution, rehabilitation, recognition of injustices, apologies, commemoration, educational reforms and “guarantees” that such injustices will not happen again.
The UN-backed Human Rights Council commissioned the report at a special session last year following the murder of Floyd, a black American who was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis in May 2020. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was sentenced to 22-1 / 2 years in prison last week.
Protests erupted after an excruciating video from spectators showed how Floyd repeatedly gasped: “I can’t breathe!” as onlookers shouted at Chauvin to stop resting his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The protests against Floyd’s murder and the “momental” verdict against Chauvin are a “turning point in the fight against racism”, according to the report.
The report was based on discussions with over 340 people – mostly of African descent – and experts; over 100 written contributions, including from governments; and reviewing public material, the rights office said.
He analyzed 190 deaths, mostly in the United States, to show how law enforcement officials are rarely held accountable for rights violations and crimes against people of African descent, and he noted similar patterns. ill-treatment by the police in many countries.
The report ultimately aims to turn these opportunities into a more systemic response by governments to tackle racism, and not just in the United States – although the injustices and legacy of slavery, racism and violence to which are confronting African Americans has clearly been a major theme.
The report also exposes the cases, concerns and situation in around 60 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Great Britain, Canada, Colombia and France, among others.
“We couldn’t find a single example of a state that has fully considered the past or comprehensively considered the impacts on the lives of people of African descent today,” Mona Rishmawi, who leads a unit on non-discrimination at the UN human rights office, said at a press conference. “Our message is therefore that this situation is untenable.”
Compensation should be considered at “collective and individual level”, she said, adding that such a process “begins with recognition” of past wrongs and “it is not a one-size-fits-all solution”. She said countries need to look at their own past and their own practices to assess how to proceed.
The UN report called on countries to “make amends for centuries of violence and discrimination”, for example through “formal recognition and apologies, truth processes and reparations in various forms”.
He also denounced the “dehumanization of people of African descent” which was “rooted in false social constructs of race” in the past to justify slavery, racial stereotypes and harmful practices as well as tolerance of discrimination. race, inequality and violence.
He cited the inequalities faced by people of African descent and the “blatant socio-economic and political marginalization” they face in many countries, including inequitable access to education, health care, employment, housing and drinking water.
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