Rights Group urges reparations for slavery, segregation

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Ahead of next month's international conference on racism, Human Rights Watch Thursday called for reparations to counter the most severe continuing effects of slavery, segregation and other extreme forms of racism.
The New York-based rights group said in a release that national and international panels should be created with maximum transparency and public participation to identify and acknowledge past abuses and to guide action to counter their present-day effect.
Africans at home and in the Diaspora have been demanding reparations for decades of slavery, that saw millions of Africans uprooted from the continent into forced labour in Europe and the Americas.
But the demand has fallen on deaf ears, not even after the ongoing payment of billions of US dollars to the Jews for a similar injustice against them.
"Groups that suffer today because of slavery or other severe racist practices should be compensated by governments responsible for these practices," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.
"Those most seriously victimised today by past wrongs should be the first priority for compensation to end their victimisation," he said, noting that reparations for past abuse should focus first on groups that continue to suffer the most severe hardships.
"We're not talking about a handout or a windfall," said Roth.
"We are calling for long-term commitments to correct the damage done to the groups left most seriously disadvantaged.
" Human Rights Watch proposed the establishment of national panels, in multiracial countries such as the United States, Brazil and South Africa, as well as one or more international panels to look at the effect of the slave trade.
These panels would focus on tracing these effects not for particular individuals but for groups.
The panels should serve as Truth Commissions aiming to reveal the extent to which a government's past racist practices contribute to contemporary deprivation domestically and abroad, Roth said.
They should educate the public, acknowledge responsibility, and propose methods of redress and making amends.
A primary purpose of reparations would be to address the social and economic foundations of today's victims' continuing marginalisation - through means such as investment in education, housing, health care, or job training.
The question of compensation for slavery will be one of the most controversial topics at the 31 August-7 September, UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa.

19 july 2001 13:34:00

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