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UN committee urges US to pay reparations for slavery

BLACK LIVES MATTER: Protestors march for justice in America

A UNITED Nations (UN) working group has advised that the US should consider giving reparations to descendants of African slaves brought to North America.

The panel, composed of human rights activists, have identified slavery as the root cause of the plight of African-Americans today.

Speaking at a public press conference, Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, the chairwoman of the working group drew parallels between the police killings in the United States and racist lynchings that occurred in the South until the civil rights era.

"Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynching’s in the past," Mendes-France told reporters.

The committee released its preliminary recommendations on Friday (Jan 28) after an 11-day fact-finding mission in the US, meeting with black Americans and others in different cities across the country.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington, DC, the group said that Congress should pass the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, establish a national human rights commission and publicly acknowledge that the Atlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity.

Mendes-France, who is the daughter of leading black intellectual Frantz Fanon, said that the group was "extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African-Americans,” according to AP.

“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 continued.

While reparations are often envisioned as individual payments of cash, Mendes-France, who is also a French law professor told Vice that she does not favour such a method.

Instead, she recommended that the money be spent for the "full implementation of special programs based on education, socioeconomic, and environmental rights."

The group will release a full report of its findings in September at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, but a preliminary statement said that issues such as mass incarceration and police brutality are proof that there is “structural discrimination” in the United States.

In 2008, the House of Representatives successfully voted to apologise for slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed, and a year later the Senate passed its own apology bill as well.

However, the two chambers of Congress could not agree on wording that would prevent the government from being liable for future reparations lawsuits, preventing the bill from ever reaching the President’s desk.

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