UN chief calls for slavery reparations

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for slavery reparations over the transatlantic slave trade, which deprived enslaved people of “education, healthcare, opportunity and prosperity.”

“We call for reparatory justice frameworks, to help overcome generations of exclusion and discrimination,” Guterres said Monday, which marked the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

“We appeal for the space and necessary conditions for healing, repair and justice,” he said.

More than 12.5 million Africans were forcibly transported by European merchants on their ships and sold into slavery. Some merchants profited off enslaved people’s labor. Those who survived trips were put on plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean.

“This laid the foundations for a violent discrimination system based on white supremacy that still echoes today,” Guterres said. “Descendants of enslaved Africans and people of African descent are still fighting for equal rights and freedoms around the world.”

A U.N. report issued last year said countries could consider financial reparations for the enslavement of people of African descent, but it recognized the process of making legal claims and identifying victims and perpetrators is complex.

“Under international human rights law, compensation for any economically assessable damage, as appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the violation and the circumstances of each case, may also constitute a form of reparations,” according to the report released in September.

“In the context of historical wrongs and harms suffered as a result of colonialism and enslavement, the assessment of the economic damage can be extremely difficult owing to the length of time passed and the difficulty of identifying the perpetrators and victims,“ the report said.

Hilary Beckles, the chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission, echoed Guterres’s remarks.

“This is the movement that will signal, finally, the collective victory of humanity, of good over evil,” Beckles said, according to Reuters. The CARICOM Reparations Commission was created to pursue reparations from former colonial powers like Portugal, France and Great Britain.

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