GENEVA – In a landmark report published after the assassination of George Floyd in the United States, the UN human rights leader calls on countries around the world to do more to end discrimination, violence and systemic racism against people of African descent and ” To make amends ”. them – also through reparations.
The report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, offers a comprehensive look at the roots of centuries of ill-treatment that Africans and people of African descent have faced, particularly through the transatlantic slave trade. It seeks a “transformative” approach to addressing its ongoing impact today.
The report, which is a year in the making, hopes to build on the dynamics of the recent tightened global review of racism and its impact on people of African descent embodied in the high profile murders of unarmed blacks in the United States and elsewhere.
“Today is a significant opportunity to reach a turning point for racial equality and justice,” the report said.
The report aims to accelerate country action to end racial injustice; Ending impunity for police violations; ensure that people of African descent and those who speak out against racism are heard; and face the injustices of the past through accountability and reparation.
“I call on all states to no longer deny racism – and to start dismantling it; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and face the legacy of the past and make amends, “Bachelet said in a video statement.
While addressing the issue of redress in their most explicit way to date, Bachelet suggested that monetary compensation alone would not be enough and would be part of a series of measures to correct or redress the injustices.
“Reparations should not be equated with financial compensation only,” she wrote, adding that it should include restitution, rehabilitation, injustice recognition, apologies, memorial services, educational reforms and “guarantees” that such injustices will not recur.
The United Nations-backed Human Rights Council commissioned the report during a special session last year following the murder of Floyd, a black American who was killed by a white police officer 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 viewer video showed Floyd repeatedly gasping, “I can’t breathe!” As viewers yelled at Chauvin to stop pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck.
The protests against Floyd’s assassination and the “meaningful” verdict against Chauvin are a “groundbreaking point in the fight against racism,” the report said.
The report was based on interviews with more than 340 people – mostly of African descent – and experts; more than 100 written contributions, including from governments; and reviewing public material, the rights bureau said.
It analyzed 190 deaths, mostly in the United States, to show how rarely law enforcement officers are held accountable for rights violations and crimes against people of African descent, and found similar patterns of police abuse in many countries.
The report ultimately aims to translate these opportunities into a more systemic government response to combat racism, and not just in the United States – despite the injustices and legacies of slavery, racism and violence that African Americans face, clearly were an important issue.
The report also set out cases, concerns and the situation in around 60 countries including Belgium, Brazil, the UK, Canada, Colombia and France, among others.
“We couldn’t find a single example of a state that fully counted on the past or fully considered the impact of the lives of people of African descent today,” said Mona Rishmawi, who heads a non-discrimination unit at the UN Human Rights Office said a press conference. “Our message is therefore that this situation is untenable.”
Compensation should be considered on a “collective and individual level”, she said, adding that any such process “begins with the acknowledgment” of past mistakes and “it is not uniform”. She said countries need to look at their own past and practice to assess how to proceed.
The UN report called on countries to “make amends for centuries of violence and discrimination” through, for example, “formal recognition and apologies, truth-finding procedures and redress in various forms”.
It also condemned the “dehumanization of people of African descent” which in the past was “rooted in false social constructions of races” to justify enslavement, racial stereotypes and harmful practices, and tolerance of racial discrimination, inequality and violence.
It identified the inequalities facing people of African descent and the “severe socio-economic and political marginalization” they face in many countries, including inequitable access to education, health care, jobs, housing and clean water.