Following an in-depth study of racism against Africans and people of African descent, the United Nations has declared that reparations are due.
In the landmark report, the U.N. human rights chief urged countries worldwide to boost efforts to end discrimination, violence and systemic racism against people of African descent and “make amends” to them — including through reparations.
The report from Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and now U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, takes an expansive look at the roots of historic mistreatment faced by Africans and people of African descent, notably from the trans-Atlantic slave trade, NPR reported.
The U.N.-backed Human Rights Council commissioned the report during a special session in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was recently sentenced to 22 years in prison.
“I am calling on all states to stop denying — and start dismantling — racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress,” Bachelet said in a video statement.
Bachelet suggested that monetary compensation alone is not enough and would be part of broader measures to help rectify injustices.
“Reparations should not only be equated with financial compensation,” she wrote. It should include restitution, rehabilitation, acknowledgement of injustices, apologies, memorialization, educational reforms and “guarantees” that such injustices won’t happen again.
The wide-ranging report examined deaths by police across nations and legal systems, and found “an alarming picture of systemwide, disproportionate” burdens on Black people in their encounters with police and criminal justice systems internationally. Worldwide, the report found “striking similarities” and patterns, including in victims’ fight for justice, and made sweeping recommendations, mostly without dwelling on specific national circumstances.
The report was based on discussions with more than 340 people — mostly of African descent — and experts, the rights office said. It examined the cases of 190 deaths, mostly in the U.S., to show how law enforcement officers are “rarely held accountable for rights violations and crimes against people of African descent, and it noted similar patterns of mistreatment by police across many countries,” The Washington Post reported.
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This isn’t the first time the United Nations has addressed reparations. In 2020, Bachelet called for the U.S. to pay reparations. She urged countries to confront the legacy of slavery and colonialism through reparations and make amends for “centuries of violence and discrimination”.