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UN experts urge States to recognise and address legacy of slave trade

International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

25 March 2024

GENEVA (25 March 2024) – On the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a group of UN experts* issued the following statement:

“The International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is an important moment to reflect on and honour the millions of Africans who, over a period of 400 years, were cruelly uprooted from their communities and enslaved,   in Europe and the Americas, in dehumanising and degrading conditions where they endured horrific violations of their human rights, deprivation of their identity and physical, mental, psychological and spiritual brutality.

This day serves as a reminder that the enslavement of Africans gave rise to the systemic racism and institutionalised racial discrimination that their descendants continue to experience today.

In commemorating this day, it is imperative to recognise that people of African descent are disproportionately affected by discrimination, marginalisation and social injustice. Economic disparities, limited access to quality education, health care, housing, employment, under-representation in political, public and private sector leadership, and over-representation in law enforcement especially in the criminal justice system remain their daily reality. 

We urgently call for a strengthened collective commitment to acknowledge and redress the enduring disparities and inequalities that stem from this cruel chapter in history and continue to reverberate across generations. We urge States ensure effective participation of people of African descent in decision-making processes and implement reparatory justice measures to redress these long-standing injustices.

We also call on States to proclaim a second Decade for People of African Descent to sustain global efforts to promote the inclusive and sustained development of, advance reparatory justice for, and combat discrimination, systemic racism and social exclusion of people of African descent.”

The Experts: Ms. Barbara Reynolds, Chairperson, Ms. Bina D’Costa and Ms. Miriam Ekiudoko, Members, Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Ms. June Soomer, Chairperson-Designate, Permanent Forum on People of African Descent Mr. Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences;  Ms. Akua Kuenyehia, Ms. Tracie Keesee, Mr. Juan Méndez, Experts, International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement; and Ms. Ashwini K.P., Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For additional information and media requests please contact: Marie Joseph Ayissi ([email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

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