The legal basis of the claim for Reparations
Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001
By Lord Anthony Gifford, British Queens Counsel
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and Jamaican Attorney-at-Law
I believe that the cause of Reparations to Africa and Africans in the Diaspora is rooted in fundamental justice - a justice which over-arches every struggle and campaign which African people have waged to assert their human dignity. For the iniquities perpetrated against African people today - whether in South Africa by the apartheid regime, in Mozambique and Angola by terrorist forms of de stabilisation, in Britain and the USA by racist attacks and by systems of discrimination - are the continuing consequences, the damages as lawyers would say, flowing from the 400-years-long atrocity of the slave system.
For me as a lawyer it is essential to locate the claim for Reparations within a framework of law and justice. If this were merely an appeal to the conscience of the White world, it would be misconceived. For while there have been many committed individuals and movements of solidarity in the White world, its political an economic power centres have evidenced a ruthless lack of conscience when it comes to Black and African peoples.
But in my experience progress has been made when the powers that rule in the white world have been compelled to recognise that the rights of non-white peoples are founded in justice. It is then that forms of legal redress, which may not have existed before, have been devised.
For example, it used to be perfectly legal in Britain, only 25 years ago, for landlords or employers to put up notices which said "VACANCIES - NO COLOUREDS". Today any employer who discriminates on racial grounds can be required by a Tribunal to pay compensation.
At an intentional level, apartheid in South Africa used to be regarded as an internal affair, however regrettable. But over the years apartheid became recognised as a crime against humanity and a threat to peace, so that international sanctions could be imposed.
This is not to say that the achievement of legal sanctions brings automatic justice. This has not happened either in Britain or South Africa. But these examples show that the demand for justice and legality is an essential element in the struggle for a just cause.
So it is with the claim for Reparations. Indeed, once you accept, as I do, the truth of three propositions. More http://www.arm.arc.co.uk/legalBasis.html
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