UN report calling nations to consider reparatory justice for people of African descent

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A UN report advocating for countries to contemplate providing financial reparations for the transatlantic slave trade has been celebrated as a significant advancement by activists. The report, which is being discussed during the meetings of the 78th United Nations General Assembly, asserts that no nation has adequately accounted for the historical enslavement of people of African descent, spanning over 400 years.

According to the report, authored by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, under international human rights law, compensation for quantifiable economic harm, proportionate to the severity of the violation and specific circumstances of each case, could qualify as a form of reparations. However, the report acknowledges the complexity of assessing economic damage in historical cases due to the passage of time and difficulties in identifying both perpetrators and victims.

The report emphasizes that the challenges associated with making legal claims for compensation should not negate the existence of underlying legal obligations. Campaigners view the report as a significant stride forward in the quest for reparative justice.

The report marks a huge development in the international reparations’ movement. Those who were enslaved were unable to advocate for reparations, but their descendants continue to endure the repercussions of African slavery.

The report concludes that states should explore various measures to address the enduring legacies of slavery and colonialism, including seeking justice, offering reparations, and fostering reconciliation.

In April, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declined to apologize for the UK’s involvement in the slave trade or commit to reparations. Judge Patrick Robinson, who presided over the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević, asserted that the international momentum for slavery reparations was shifting and urged the UK to reconsider its position, citing historical and legal imperatives.

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