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US government should pay reparations to the African-American descendants of slaves, UN committee says

Group says ‘past injustices and crimes against African-Americans need to be addressed with reparatory justice’
  • Friday 29 January 2016

The US government should consider paying reparations to the African-American descendants of slaves, a United Nation working group says.

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has released its preliminary recommendations after more than a week of meetings with black Americans from across the country.

The group also recommended establishing a national human rights commission and publicly acknowledge the trans-Atlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity.

Chairwoman Professor Mireille Fanon-Mendes France said the committee were “extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African-Americans”.

She said: “The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the U.S. remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent.”

She compared the recent deaths of unarmed black men likeMichael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of white police officers to the racist lynchings of black men in the South from the post-Civil War era through to the latter half of the 20th century.

Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014

The recent deaths – as well as that of Sandra Bland who was found dead in her cell in Texas in July last year – have prompted the growth of the protest movement #BlackLivesMatter.

She said: “Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Members of the working group – none of whom are from the US – said they were shocked at some of the injustices many black people in the US faced.

Around 37 per cent of state and federal prisoners were black males in 2014m and according to a recent survey by the US Federal Reserve the median African-American family has around 8 cents in wealth to every dollar held by the median white family.

The working group suggested monuments, markers and memorials be erected in the United States to facilitate dialogue, and “past injustices and crimes against African-Americans need to be addressed with reparatory justice”.

They also suggested an end to racial profiling, mandatory minimum sentencing and solitary confinement in prisons.

Protesters following a grand jury decision not to indict police officers connected with the death of Eric Garner in New York

The US government has never issued an official apology for slavery.

In 2008, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to apologise for both slavery and the Jim Crow laws which followed.

The following year the Senate passed its own bill to apologise for the injustice but neither reached President Obama’s desk as both houses could not agree on the correct wording to stop them becoming liable for future repatriations.