GENOCIDE AND REPARATIONS
By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (September 14, 2002)
International Law is quite clear on the relationship of the concept of genocide to the concept of reparations. This is why in coming weeks NBUF will be revisiting our 1996-97 Genocide Campaign.
In that campaign, we specifically charged the United States Government with complicity and involvement in the illicit trafficking, distribution, and sale of narcotic substances, cocaine and crack/cocaine in the African community; racism in the administration of the War On Drugs; with racism, classism, sexism and discrimination in the administration of criminal justice; and with governmental, especially police, misconduct, harassment, persecution and abuse.
Through the United Nations Human Rights Communications Procedures, under 1503, we submitted 157,000 signatures from African people throughout the United States who agreed that the United States was involved in acts of genocide against African people in this country.
These petitions and the declaration were submitted to the Officer in Charge of High Commission of Human Rights, Centre for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland on May 21, 1997.
As renowned international British lawyer, Lord Anthony Gifford, reminds us that in 1948 the United Nations promoted the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It has been ratified by most countries in the world. Gifford explains, the Convention has given a new legal form to an old concept in international law.
Gifford makes the point that The preamble to the Convention recognized that genocide is a crime against international law, and that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity. Genocide was defined as: Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
African centered historians, scholars, and experts have shown without difficulty how the invasion of African territories, the mass capture of Africans, the horrors of the middle passage, the chattelization of Africans in the Americas, the extermination of the language and culture of the transported Africans, constituted violations of all these international laws, which serves as the basis for the charge of genocide against the United States and its continued vestiges, as evidenced by the prison industrial complex. This historical background provides a clear and concise rationale for the demand for reparations by African people in America, and, in fact, throughout the world.
This is why the building of a mass based Reparations Movement is so critical in supporting our just demands for reparations in America. That is why the Millions For Reparations Mass Rally that was held on August 17, 2002, in Washington, D.C. was so important in helping to ignite the mass based grassroots mobilization so vital to our organizing efforts. We must continue to make our case in the streets with the masses of African people in America that the United States Government is involved in acts of genocide against African people in America and that we are owed reparations.
The United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), that was held in Durban, South Africa in the Summer of 2001, declared the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery and Colonialism Crimes Against Humanity. The impact of the mass grassroots mobilization, organization and participation was the key ingredient as to our success and victory in Durban.
Lord Anthony Gifford explains, The argument that such crimes were legal under European law, and accepted as normal by most Europeans, would be unavailing. Gifford further makes the obvious point Europeans did not, then or now, constitute all mankind, and the conscience of all decent mankind must always have been outraged by the atrocities which Europeans inflicted on Africans over 400 years. Indeed it can be said that it was the ultimate crime against humanity, to deny human status to a vast section of humankind.
Just as the concept of genocide has been accepted as part of international law, so has the concept of reparations. The right to reparations is well recognized in international law. It has been defined by the Permanent Court of International Justice (the predecessor of the International Court of Justice) in these terms: The essential principle contained in the actual notion of an illegal act a principle which seems to be established by international practice and in particular by the decisions of arbitral tribunals is that reparations must, as far as possible, wipe out all of the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed.
Developing a campaign that will bring the United States before the International Court of Justice for its human rights violations against African people within its borders should be at the core of our mass grassroots mobilizing and organizing efforts.
One way for this to happen is to continue to educate African people in America to the acts of genocide being inflicted on us by the United States Government and its relationship to our demands for reparations.
This is our challenge. THEY OWE US!
National Black United Front (NBUF)