UN human rights chief encourages reparations to ‘make amends’ for racism

Michelle Bachelet
Getty Images

The human rights chief of the United Nations is calling on countries to take more action to halt discrimination, violence and systemic racism against individuals of African descent worldwide and “make amends” to them, including issuing reparations.

The Associated Press reported that the call for reparations and increased efforts to end discrimination comes from a landmark report spearheaded by Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It was set into motion after the death of George Floyd, who was killed in May 2020 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison last week for the murder of Floyd.

The report zeroes in on the sources of the mistreatment that Africans and people of African descent have faced for centuries, according to the AP, especially from the transatlantic slave trade.

It reportedly aimed to find a “transformative” way to discuss the continued impact the mistreatment of Africans has today and quicken the pace for countries to halt racial injustice, stop impunity for rights violations committed by police, ensure that individuals who denounce racial injustice are heard and “confront past legacies and deliver redress,” Bachelet said, according to the AP.

She encouraged reparations but noted that the payments are not enough, writing that they would be part of a series of measures to help correct or compensate for the centuries of injustice.

“Reparations should not only be equated with financial compensation,” Bachelet wrote, according to the AP. She added that they should include restitution, rehabilitation, acknowledgment of injustices, apologies, memorialization, educational reforms and “guarantees” that such unfairness will not occur again, according to the wire service.

The report seeks to use the momentum felt worldwide after a year of increased scrutiny regarding racism and its effect on individuals of African descent, particularly after a number of unarmed Black people were killed in the U.S. and beyond, the AP reported.

“There is today a momentous opportunity to achieve a turning point for racial equality and justice,” the report says, according to the AP.

It is based on discussions with more than 340 people, mainly of African descent, and experts, according to the wire service.

It also reportedly examined 190 deaths, most of which occurred in the U.S., to illustrate that law enforcement officers are seldom held accountable for their actions that involve rights violations and mistreatment against individuals of African descent.

The report pointed out similar patterns of misconduct by police in a number of countries throughout the world, according to the AP.

The report comes after Bachelet last year called on countries to address systemic racism and discrimination by issuing reparations during a council debate that sparked after the killing of Floyd.

At the time, she said it was not enough to condemn racism and police brutality, but that “it was also necessary to make amends for centuries of violence and discrimination, including through formal apologies, truth-telling processes, and reparations in various forms.”

Tags racial injustice Reparations United Nations
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