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UN rights boss urges reparations for racism

July 12, 2021

Financial and other measures with the aim of addressing past racism, colonialism and slavery would "transform our future," according to Michelle Bachelet.

Two women hold a Black Lives Matter poster as they attend a rally marking the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd
The death of George Floyd sparked the UN report on police violence and racism more generallyImage: Markus Schreiber/AP/picture alliance

The UN human rights chief on Monday urged countries to take "a wide range of reparations measures" to address the legacies of slavery, colonial rule and racial discrimination.

Michelle Bachelet made the comment while presenting a report into racism worldwide and its impact on people of African descent.

The report was called for following the murder of Black man George Floyd by a white US police officer in 2020.

Key points raised by the UN rights chief

Research "could not find a single example of a state that has comprehensively reckoned with its past or accounted for its impacts on the lives of people of African descent today," Bachelet said.

This was despite some attempts by means of apologies, litigation and memorializing.

Bachelet recommended that countries "create, reinforce and fully fund comprehensive processes — with full participation of affected communities —  to share the truth about what was done, and the harms it continues to inflict."

Bachelet said the process would prove "crucial to healing our societies and providing justice for terrible crimes" and would "transform out future."

Racism at the workplace

US official welcomes the report

The US deputy ambassador in Geneva, Benjamin Moeling, welcomed the "insightful and forthright report" in a video statement to the council.

"The United States is addressing these challenges, at home and abroad, honestly and transparently by tackling the underlying issues of racial discrimination and the use of excessive force in policing," he said.

Meanwhile, a debate continues to polarize the US about the idea of reparations for slavery and following societal and judicial discrimination.

kmm/msh (AFP, AP)