The 1503 Petition for Reparations for African Americans was delivered to the UN in 1994. Although it was received, it was not heard nor was it responded to by the UN.
We, the African descendants of slaves, the so-called African-American, the so-called Black American, the so-called Negro, have never tasted of the "freedom" that so many millions of other members of the human family enjoy, safeguard and treasure. We are the only people on this planet that have had to endure over four humdred (400) years of the most brutal, dehumanizing slavery the world has ever known. We continue to suffer to this day from the scars of that slavery and from institutions of racism in the United States of America that deprive us of our "human rights."
This historic Petition to the United Nations marks an end of one era and beginning of another. It marks the end of the struggle for liberty that many Black Americans have fought within the boundaries of the United States in an attempt to get our former slave masters to give us what we were born with, our human rights.
We, as a people, have survived the post-civil war when we were released from the physical chains and told to "go" with little or no assistance from the United States Government. We even survived the violent and frightening reign of terror of the Klu Klux Klan and the White Citizens Councils. During the years of the Great Depression, we suffered the most.
During World War II, Black soldiers were placed on the front lines to defend a nation that inflicted insults of the worst kind upon them, their families and loved ones who sought to exercise their human rights in places of public accommodations and in the work place.
We have had many great leaders during this era--leaders who begged and pleaded to the government and to the white majority Americans, to do what is right and just. Among those, to name a few, have been: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, and Booker T. Washington.
The push for civil rights in the sixties brought us into a period wherein we experienced an even more cruel fate. We were led to believe that integration would be a "cure-all" for our woes. With integration we were to be able to experience life in these United States as do the majority of white Americans. Several decades into this system of "forced assimilation" reveals that the "glass ceiling" will continue to block the majority of us from ever truly "arriving." Our great leaders--Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy--proponents of integration, did not intend to dedicate their life’s works to a system that would still manage to keep us under control. But under control we still are.
We have had several great leaders with the wisdom to see that in order to be truly free, we must be able to exercise ALL of the rights that citizens of other nations exercise. We must have the right to self-determination which includes the right to: decide our own destiny, study and perpetuate our own history, culture and languages; have real political power in determining and electing officials that will be able to protect rights and needs peculiar to African-Americans; and even to return to Mother Africa, with substance, in order to undo the damages of slavery. Among these leaders were W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X.
We now are at the beginning of a new era wherein we now will take our struggle for true and complete freedom to the international community via the United Nations. Our leader in this areana is the Honorable Silis Muhammad, my husband, who has dedicated his life’s work in carrying out the mission of his leader and teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He is working day and night to enable African-Americans to sit down as equals with officials of the government of the United States in a forum governed by the United Nations, so that this government will have to answer for its systematic and continuous gross violations of our human rights protected under international law.
So great is his love for his people that he has placed his life on the line in order to ensure that African-Americans are afforded the right to self-determination, and to receive justice in the form of reparations. I, along with countless others, pledge, my love and loyalty to him in this great and historic endeavor! Those of us in this spiritual battle are warriors, and are reminded of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:
"For every battle of the warrior is with
Confused noise and garments rolled in blood;
But this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
The Bible, Isaiah,
Chapter 9, Verse 5
Attorney General of the
Lost-Found Nation of Islam
Reparations Petition for United Nations assistance under
Resolution 1503 on behalf of African-Americans in the United States of America
Ref. N. G/SO 215/1 USA (266)
Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Secretary-General of the United Nations
Palais des Nations
Re: The past and present gross violations of the human rights of the African-American people to self determination by means of official U.S. policies of slavery, segregation, and forced assimilation, and the refusal of the U.S. government to apologize and offer any compensation, or reparations for these violations.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world;
Whereas both the fundamental rights of members of minorities to exist in equal status with the majority, as well as the historical oppression and resulting present inequality and circumstances of the African-Americans (descendants of the formerly enslaved Africans in the U.S.) are well known;
Keeping in mind that Articles 1 and 55 of the U.N. Charter specifically refer to the principle of self-determination; that one of the basic purposes of the U.N., according to Article 1(2) is to,...develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples ...;" that Article 55 explicitly ties the principle of self-determination to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all or part of its people; that the principle of self-determination is implicated in chapters XI, XII and XIII of the Charter, that in the years since 1945, the principle has found its way into both the International Covenants, the Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the decisions of the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinions in the Namibia and Western Sahara cases, just as it has been upheld by the U.N. General Assembly in relation to numerous recently emerging eastern European nations; and that, although long applied only in the colonial context, it has increasingly been appealed to in the post-colonial age by minorities and secessionist movements to the extent that today legal scholars--even (as before suggested) the U.N. itself--have generally agreed that the principle of self-determination may well apply outside of the colonial context, though within strict limits;
Keeping in mind that Articles 1 and 55 of the Charter commit the U.N. to the promotion of universal respect for human rights and basic freedoms, while Article 56 gives member nations an obligation to act, jointly or separately, to achieve the purposes set out in Article 55--that is, Article 56 creates a duty to act to promote respect for rights and freedoms,; and that when the core human rights rooted in the principle of autonomy are grossly, systematically and persistently violated, U.N. intervention to end that violation is morally and legally permissible, since the principle of autonomy implies that government is only justifiable if the government and its policies are an expression of the self-determination of peoples;
Realizing that today there can be little doubt that nations which practice, encourage or condone activities such as genocide, ethnocide, ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation, systematic racial discrimination, etc, are in violation of international law;
Recognizing that of such violations, only those that are (1) persistent and (2) systematic will be sufficiently severe or gross as to justify U. N. involvement; and that violations are systematic if they are a part of a consistent pattern, or a matter of state policy (systematic violations include both overt governmental actions or covert but institutionalized practices, the effect of which is to regularly prevent the exercise of core rights, and are more than occasional, or of short duration (e.g., U.S.slavery, segregation, systemic racial discrimination);
Understanding that to be a people, a group of persons must not only subjectively see themselves as a single people, but also objectively be seen, through speech and action, to be participating or be able to participate in the creation or recreation of their own distinct social world.
Recognizing that the legal acceptability of self-determination outside of the colonial context also means making a distinction between external and internal self-determination; that is, limiting self-determination to minority rights as it has been interpreted under Article 27 of the ICCPR, and evolved in customary international law;
Recognizing that just as a gross systemic and persistent denial of human rights is a violation of international law, calling forth the right to international assistance, the violation of the human right to internal self-determination and reparations as permitted in minority rights--that is the concentration of all the power of a multi-national state in the hands of a single group within it which acts to prevent other constituent peoples from realizing their own social, historical and cultural space--is equally a violation of international law, calling forth the right to receive U.N. assistance. Any government or the agents and institutions of the government that, in principle, prevent the exercise of a people’s right to self-determination, and compensation for past and present gross violations, or any other minority rights, may be regarded as illegitimate in the eyes of that people, and by international law in its application to that people, insofar as U.N. efforts to give a voice to the people is called for in principle.
Further recognizing, in regard to reparations for past gross violations, that the right to a remedy for victims of gross violation of human rights is well-established, and involves reparations, which include compensation, restitution or restoration. Concerning this fundamental international legal principle, the Permanent Court of International Justice ruled in the Chorzow Factory (indemnity) Case:
It is a principle of international law, and even a general conception of law, that any breach of an agreement invokes an obligation to make reparation.... reparation is the indispensable complement of a failure to apply a convention, and there is no necessity for this to be stated in the convention itself.
Drawing attention to the pertinence of a number of both universal and regional human rights instruments containing express provisions relating to the right to an "effective remedy" by competent national tribunals for acts violating human rights ( see Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right). The notion of an "effective remedy" is also included in Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in Article 6 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Some human rights instruments refer to a more particular "rights to be compensated in accordance with the law" or the "right to an adequate compensation." Even more specific are the provisions of Article 9(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and of Article 5(5) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which refer to the "enforceable right to compensation." Similarly, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment contains a provision providing for the torture victim a redress and "an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible." In some instruments, a specific provision is contained indicating that compensation is due in accordance with law or with national law. Equally, provisions relating to "reparation" or "satisfaction" of damages are contained in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Article 6, which provides for the right to seek "just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered." The ILO Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries also refers to "fair compensation for damages," to "compensation in money" and "under appropriate guarantees." And all to full compensation "for any loss or injury." The American Convention on Human Rights, to which the U.S. is a party, speaks of "compensatory damages" (Article 68) and provides that the consequences of the measure or situation that constituted the breach of the right or freedom "be remedied" and the "fair compensation be paid to the injured party." The Convention on the Rights of the Child contains a provision to the effect that states Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote "physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim..." In short, numerous human rights instruments provide strong evidence that the right to remedy is an established obligation where states’ action or failure to act result in damages.
Bearing in mind, concerning the issue as to whether the internationally accepted obligation to remedy is applicable to damages suffered by minorities due to past gross violation of human rights, that Sub-Commission resolution 1989/14 provides our first useful guidance as to victims rights to reparation. The resolution mentions in its first preambular paragraph "individuals, groups and communities". This supports our assumption that the right to remedy deals with minorities as well as individuals. That minorities are included is also confirmed in Sub-Commission resolution 1988/11 of 1 September 1988 which, in its first operative paragraph, refers to "victims", either individually or collectively." Another indication regarding the categories of victims is the repeated reference in Sub-Commission resolution 1989/14 to "gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms." Under most international legal instruments dealing with individual rights, the violation of any one provision may entail a right to an appropriate remedy, while instruments concerned with the rights of minorities to Compensation focus on gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Drawing particular attention to the fact that according to the domestic law of the U.S. itself (Third Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United State), a state violates international law if, as a matter of State policy, it practices, encourages or condones:
(b) slavery or slave trade
(c) the murder or causing the disappearance of individuals
(d) torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
(e) prolonged arbitrary detention
(f) systematize racial discrimination, or
(g) a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.
Affirming the general recognition that victims who are entitled to compensation--and this may also include their descendants or survivors--have suffered substantial damages and harm. This interpretation is reflected in the first preambular paragraph of Sub-Commission resolution 1989/14 which refers to "substantial damages and acute sufferings." In this regard the notion of "victims" spelled out in paragraph 18 of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, should be taken into account. The paragraphs reads in part:
"Victims means persons who individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that ...constitute violations... of internationally recognized norms relating to human rights.)
And further recognizing that for the many African-Americans whose ancestors were victims of gross violations, passage of time has no attenuating effect, but on the contrary has increased post-traumatic stress, deteriorated social, material, etc., conditions requiring all necessary special rights as well as compensation and rehabilitation measures. We may conclude that as long as the effects of past gross violation and resulting damage can be demonstrated as the cause of present developmental problems, it would be difficult to produce an acceptable argument for statutory limitations since that would amount to the denial of the fundamental human right to a remedy for past injustices. Therefore, in concern for future generations and our search for an end to war and violence, we must uphold human rights for African-Americans, because in this era of scattered low-intensity violent conflicts, only justice can effectively supersede war.
Remembering that the Permanent Court of International Justice establishes the basic principles governing remedy for breaches of international obligation, stating:
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 reparation must, as far as possible, wipe out all consequences of the illegal act and reestablish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed, if that act had not been committed. Restitution in kind or, if this is not possible, payment of sum corresponding to the value which a restitution in kind would bear, the award, if need be, of damages for loss sustained which would not be covered by restitution in kind or payment in place of it--such are the principles which should serve to determine the amount of compensation due for an act contrary to international law.
In full consideration of all of the above, we believe that the African-American people suffer from gross, systematic and persistent violation of their human rights, particularly their right to self-determination and right to remedy for past and ongoing gross human rights violation, and therefore the following petition is prepared by The Lost-Found Nation of Islam, on behalf of African-Americans, to call forth the assistance of the U.N. and the international community:
Dear Mr. Boutros-Boutros Ghali and Members of the Sub-Commission:
(Fatma Zahra, Farida Alouaze, Ahmed Khalifa, Ahmed Khalil, Fisseha Yirner, Hailma Embarek Wazazi, Judith Sell Attah, El Hadji Guisse’, Said Maceur Ramadhane, Tofazzol Hassain Khan, Jin Tian, Muksum-Ul-Hakim, Ribat Hatano, Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh, Ioan Maxim, Stanislav Valentinovich Chernnichenko, Volodymyr Boutkevitch, Leandro Despouy, Giberto Vergre Saboia, Clemencai Forero Ucros, Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Claude Heller, Marc Bossuyt, Louis Joint, Erica-Irene A. Daes, Asbjorn Eide, Claire Palley, and Linda Chavez)
The Lost-Found Nation of Islam (hereinafter referred to as The Nation of Islam), under the leadership and guidance of the Honorable Silis Muhammad, on behalf of its members and all other descendants of enslaved Africans in America, takes this opportunity to congratulate and thank the Working Group of the Sub-Commission and those members who voted to accept for consideration the IHRAAM Petition of 30 April 1992 concerning Los Angeles motorist Rodney King, in the context of past and present gross violations of human rights of African-Americans in the U.S. Although the petition was narrowly defeated in the Sub-Commission, the Nation of Islam was delighted to see that, so shortly after the show of international concern by the Working Group and many members of the Sub-Commission, the U.S. saw fit to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to bring a new black Ambassador to the U.N., to find new legal grounds to retry the police involved in the cruel and callous beating of the African-American motorist, Rodney King, and to effectively prosecute the Detroit police (See Appendix A) for the murder of an African American, Malice Green.
While it cannot be directly linked, some African-American organizations, such as those represented by The Nation of Islam or cooperating actively with The Nation of Islam feel that the concern shown by the Sub-Commission may have been instrumental in securing a fair verdict in the King and Green trials, which thus discouraged new rounds of violence, loss of life, and property damage. If this is true, the U.S. government and all Americans should be thankful to the Sub-Commission for showing the degree of concern it did.
However, while it is likely that national and international opinion probably encouraged the jury conviction of the officers in the King trial, the minimal sentence of 30 months that Judge Davies imposed upon them, his refusal to impose any fines (where $250,000.00 in fines had been pending), and his assignment of part of the blame to the victim, Mr. King, for the treatment that he endured, all indicate that the historic difficulty of African-Americans in obtaining justice through U.S. courts persists. (See Derrick Bell for a listing of major cases in which African-American interest was surrendered to that of the Anglo-American majority, Appendix B; also see Aviam Soifer and Kathleen M. Sullivan for restrictions placed upon justiciable discrimination by recent rulings in U.S. Courts, Appendix C).
Dear Members of the Sub-Commission,
In situations of historical gross violations of human rights without reparations or compensation, the individual cases are only single manifestations of the larger phenomenon of general disrespect for the human rights of a formerly enslaved, powerless, dominated and exploited minority. As you know, the history of Africans in America began with the capture and forced emigration of African populations. During the "middle voyage" to America and the enslavement which awaited survivors, millions met their deaths. While scholars estimate that some 15 million Africans were landed alive on North America, estimates of the numbers lost or killed in the slave trade have ranged as high as 100 million souls. The social fabric of an entire civilization was rent and destroyed in the process. The African population did not ask to come to America--their arrival was purely involuntary and against their will, and for the purpose of exploitation of their labor (See The African Slave Trade, Appendix D).
In order to justify the enormity of this crime against humanity, the Anglo-American government, slave masters, and majority population were forced to attempt to regard the African population as mere property and less than human. This entailed a refusal to admit their cultures, and effort to destroy their social habits and the long and rich traditions which they carried with them from the land of their birth, by labeling these barbaric and heathen. For example, any African caught practicing Islam was mercilessly tortured, killed, or forced to go into hiding. The use of African names and African languages was widely prohibited. The official U.S. policy of forced assimilation (referred to in the U.S. as "integration," despite its incongruousness with customary usage of that term) actually began during the enslavement period with the concerted efforts to stamp out any use or recognition of the African cultural heritage in America. This aspect of official policy was to be sufficiently successful in the areas of language and religion as to produce, from the many African cultures, a new one: African-Americans.
Subsequent to the Civil War, American citizenship was conferred upon the descendants of the enslaved Africans without any pretense of democratic consultation. While the government of Abraham Lincoln made numerous promises in order to secure the effective African-American support against the forces of the southern Confederacy, these promises were only briefly instituted in the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, African-Americans were forced into a system of "separate" but equal segregation, which they rejected insofar as the "separate’ was not self-administered, and the "equal" was not equally resourced. In short, "separate" meant political, cultural and economic domination with segregation. During this period, they struggled against discriminatory Jim Crow laws, which limited their participation in society at every conceivable level, including use of public lavatories, and seating in public transportation. Ironically, it was during this period of segregation that the recognition of African-American ethnic difference formed a theoretical cornerstone of the Anglo-American government’s justification of the policy of apartheid, even though the government had no intention of providing minority rights, or the right to be different, in any egalitarian sense. The official policy of "separate but equal" in reality was intended to serve a societal opiate to contain African-American revolt, and secure co-operation; it did not provide for any significant economic or political equality or autonomy. However, the separate but equal period, like the period preceding it, permitted, or was unable to prevent, the welding of separate African traditions into what became a distinct and recognizable African-American culture, demonstrable in lifestyle, music, cuisine, dress, language, dance, religious practice, socio-political organization, and a wide range of distinct cultural attributes which distinguish the African-American people from the majority population--even though the eventual commercialization and distortion of much of African-Americans’ cultural products did much to disguise the unique nature of the culture.
The policy of forced assimilation moved toward a final stage in the 1960's, following the massive struggle by the African-American community against a system of "separate but equal" which they realized was, in practice, a system of subordination and oppression. This system, which had permitted some degrees of institutionalization of a range of educational and socio-cultural activity within the African-American community, was swept away by the popular demand for "freedom" and "equality", without any analysis of exactly what these concepts should mean, in terms of politico-legal and social institutions (e.g., a range of constitutional-legal options which might have permitted the African-American minority varying degrees of self-administration under terms of political and socio-economic equality). The abolition of separate legal systems pertaining to African-Americans and their replacement by official policies of equality before the law--the same rights for all, regardless, and non-discrimination--was never presented to the African-American people in terms of the possibility of other options apart from forced assimilation.
Their recent widespread self-designation as "African-Americans," and the pervasive efforts to recover and promote the African attributes underpinning their culture, demonstrates that, far from wishing to assimilate, African-Americans are continuing to engage in the last aspect required for full retrieval of their full humanity: the right to a collective identity. This struggle has been a long one, representing over 400 years of resistance and uprisings (See Appendix E) against a long toll of repression, torture, duplicity, lynching and murder (See Appendix F) political intimidation, harassment and disruption (See Appendix G), and forced cultural assimilation (ethnocide), with neither apology or compensation. That this struggle is finally reaching its culminating stages is evidenced by the submission of this Petition to the United Nations, which constitutes the African-American demand for international inquiry into its long history of gross human rights violations, and remedy in the form of self-determination, reparations, and institution of minority rights, which given the historical precedents, may require significant degree of (internal) self-determination.
Mr. Secretary-General and Members of the Sub-Commission,
The effects of the long history of gross violation of human rights endured by African-Americans as a result of official U.S. policies of enslavement, segregation and forced assimilation is fully demonstrated by the malaise in which the African-American community exists today--in its disproportionately negative standing in all indicators of social well-being (See Appendix H). a few examples here will suffice:
* "The U.S. Imprisons Black Men at 4 Times S. Africa’s Rate" (headline, L.A. Times, Jan. 5, 1991)
* "White Families Wealth Put at 10 Times Blacks" (headline, L.A. Times, Jan. 11, 1991)
* "If the United States were divided into three countries based on race, the white population would rank No. 1, ahead of Japan, while black Americans would fall to 31st spot, alongside Trinidad and Tobago." U.N. 1993 Human Development Report cited in The Globe and Mail, May 18, 1993.
* The Environmental Protection Agency of the federal government, probing bias in placement of toxic waster, cites black communities (Alabama, Mississippi, Los Angeles) allegations that toxic waste dumps and industrial waste dumps are placed in African-American communities in a discriminating manner (Jet, December 20, 1993, p. 37).
* Bill Cosby’s attack on the constant portrayal of blacks in the major TV and movie media as comics (CNN, November 19, 1993), etc.
Individual manifestations of the general phenomenon will continue as confirmation of the general disrespect for the human rights of the formerly enslaved minority, until the phenomenon itself can be eliminated or neutralized--which cannot occur, The Nation of Islam feels and historical evidence substantiates (see Appendix H), until African-Americans are able to exercise their right to self-determination and receive reparations for past and on-going gross human rights violations. The Nation of Islam and most African-Americans believe that this will require third party intervention, such as the U.N. Sub-Commission’s willingness to provide the political, legal and conceptual leverage, the fora and the legal framework required by the oppressed formerly enslaved minority to convince the U.S. government to open a sincere dialogue on the inalienable human rights of the minority to lawfully demand self-determination with reparations for past and on-going gross human rights violations--chiefly, the receipt of compensation for past and on-going gross violation to the full extent necessary to achieve self-determination and minority rights as provided by Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. has ratified.
Mr. Secretary-General and Members of the Sub-Commission:
The U.S. government, in line with the U.S. Courts, continues to promote forced assimilation through the concept that all minority needs and rights can be subsumed within the concept of non-discrimination and equality (or sameness) before the law--this despite the fact that historical evidence strongly contradicts such a notion, and that judicial enforcement of non-discrimination in the U.S. has become formal and de-contextualized, disallowing appropriate consideration for historical injustices and present special needs. The courts further restrict satisfaction by requiring "intent to discriminate," and refusing consideration to those who are not "immediate victims" (See Soifer and Sullivan, Appendix 3)
The rectification of profound damages caused by past and present U.S. systemic discrimination against and gross violation of the human rights of African-Americans cannot occur until African-Americans are able to exercise their minority rights. All statistical evidence (Appendix H) indicates that a policy of non-discrimination alone is insufficient to permit the African-American minority to achieve equal status with the majority, but rather, under the guise of aiding them, serves to continue their victimization. While a multi-national state may argue that treating all people (majority as well as formerly enslaved minority) the same, legally and institutionally, regardless of their different histories and circumstances, somehow leads to a new society in which oppressed or formerly enslaved minorities, at some time in the future, will achieve equal-status, sameness or equality with the majority, this line of reasoning more frequently serves merely to justify or mask majority domination, and often exploitation, of national minorities. Even the most superficial analysis reveals that treating such minorities as if they were the same as the majority in a majority-ruled multi-national society does not permit minority needs to be legitimately known or expressed, let alone addressed. Practically every multi-national society since the dawn of written history tried some version of this notion without succeeding, usually with the implicit intention of maintaining the domination of the minority group. That is why every U.N. study on minorities, such as those of Cruz, Capotorit, Eide, Calley, Daes, etc., discovered that non-discrimination may not be enough, and special measures or special rights are often required by Article 2:2 in conjunction with Article 27 of the ICCPR to achieve equal status for national minorities. These special rights often include various forms of autonomy (self-determination) such as that requested during a thirty-five (35) year period for African Americans by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam.
In relation to this issue, Karel Vasak suggested in the International Dimension of Human Rights that without self-determination, (internal and external) all other rights become meaningless. Similarly, unless African-Americans are accorded appropriate forms of internal self-determination, it may not be possible for them to experience their human rights. Further, without appropriate enablement (reparations) provided over time to financially facilitate the development required to exercise self-determination, to facilitate the establishment of minority policies and institutions, the right to experience human rights will not be achieved.
Mr. Secretary-General and Sub-Commission Members,
The United States has refused to respond adequately to its obligation to provide African-Americans with either minority rights (which may require varying degrees of internal self-determination) or compensation for past gross human rights violations.
A current example of refusal of the U.S. government to address these two related issues is the case of Lani Guinier, who was nominated as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights with the support of the African-American community. Ms. Guinier’s modest proposal of "modified at-large voting," described by some as "an eloquent plea against electoral quotas," nonetheless created a furor in the business community, which vilified it as representing a form of affirmative action (See Appendix I). Ms. Guinier’s nomination was then rescinded by President Bill Clinton, despite the pertinence of the following issues:
1) The right of African-Americans to effective participation in the democratic process is provided for in Articles 2:2, 2:3 and 5 of the U. N. Declaration on the Rights of National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which is widely viewed as a further elaboration of the rights of minorities provided for in Article 27 of the International covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The American electoral system is so structured as to prevent African-Americans from having anything to say about their elected leadership. Under this system, they are discouraged from democratically electing the leadership of their community. They must always leave the election of their community leaders in the control of the Anglo-American majority. The principle of majority rule is used on the federal and state levels, rather than any of a number of systems of proportional representation, widely recognized for their capacity to reelect minority interest. On the municipal level, the "at large" voting system which has largely replaced the Ward system in American cities has been employed to effectively reduce African-American electoral influence. There are no special institutionalized procedures for democratic determination or effective exercise of African-American opinion.
2) The right to affirmative action (special measures) was provided for explicitly by Article 2:2 and implicitly by Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as by Articles 1:4 and 2:2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and 4:2 of the Declaration on Minorities. In addition to its ratification of the ICCPR, the U. S. is also guided by the Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the U. S., which details it obligations to observe treaty and customary international law.
The willingness of the highest executive authority in the United States, President Clinton, to respond to putative fears of affirmative action rather than uphold it in accordance with his international-legal obligations under the ICCPR constitutes yet another indication of U.S. policymakers’ historic tendency to block initiatives arising from the African-American community to address their political and socio-economic interest, in favor of the interest of powerful sectors of the dominant majority (See Y.N. Kly, International Law and the Black Minority in the U.S., 1985). Indeed, it is a refusal to permit African-Americans to experience a democratic process in the choice of their leaders and/or their community policies, if these leaders or policies do not accord with the interest of the Anglo-American majority--even if the majority’s interest involves enslavement or apartheid (segregation) for the African-American, as it admittedly has in the past, or absorption into the American "underclass" through the processes of forced assimilation, which is primarily the U.S. policy regarding African-Americans in the present. Following this historical pattern, certainly the day after tomorrow for African-Americans will be the same as the day before yesterday.
Mr. Secretary-General and Members of the Sub-Commission,
American jurisprudence, like that of most states, recognizes the right of victims to remedy. It has generally acknowledged that individuals may be entitled to compensation for the effects of actions wrongfully undertaken even before those harmed were born. Furthermore, such acknowledgement has occurred not only on an individual basis, but on a collective basis. When the U. S. Congress has exercised its authority under Section 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment and Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment--Amendments whose original intent was for the protection of formerly enslaved African-Americans--it has done so to protect groups or classes of persons, not to serve individual interests. The Congress is addressing the institution and legacy of slavery as an ancient wrong and redressing grievances of those presently affected by establishing modern rights.
U. S. Recognition of the collective right to remedy is reflected in the U.S. payment of reparations to the Sioux of South Dakota (1985), the Seminoles of Florida (1985), the Ottawas of Michigan (1986) and Japanese Americans (1990). A similar recognition exists in the international community, where we note the payment of reparations to the Jewish people by Germany in 1952, to Japanese Canadians by Canada in 1988, and to Holocaust survivors by Austria in 1990.
Concerning the right to reparations for gross human rights violations of African-Americans, the Nation of Islam challenges the hypocritical manipulation of affirmative action by the U.S. government which:
a) seeks to represent those affirmative action programs which it instituted subsequent to the African-American insurrections of the 1960's as compensation for past gross human rights violations of African-Americans through official policies of enslavement and segregation, while at the same time failing to officially admit to and apologize for such policies;
b) purports to be the sole determinant of what such compensations should be--i.e., to offer compensation for grievances without any consultation or negotiation with the descendants of the African-American victims, whose communities continue to suffer from the malaise engendered by such policies, as to their preferred mode of compensation.
c) having decided to compensate the African-Americans without officially consulting them, apologizing or admitting wrong-doing, the U.S. majority’s institutions then proceed to unilaterally rescind and dismantle affirmative action, the very mode of reparations that the U.S. credits itself for having offered as a remedy.
Mr. Secretary-General and Sub-Commission Members,
The above demonstrates a callous and grotesque disregard for the inherent human rights and human dignity of African-Americans. In terms of the exhaustion of domestic remedy, President Bill Clinton’s withdrawal of Lani Guiniers’s nomination as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights represents yet one more instance of the U.S. government’s refusal to respond to continuing efforts on the part of African-Americans to achieve redress for past and on-going gross violations of human rights (see list of attempts, Appendix J). Concurrent with and responding to the failure of domestic efforts, African-Americans have addressed their grievances to the international community for decades (see list of precious initiatives, Appendix K). The forwarding of the April 30, 1992 IHRAAM Petition to the U.N. Sub-Commission by its Working Group, marked the first successful attempt to achieve U.N. acceptance and consideration of such a communication addressing the question of past and on-going gross violations of African-Americans rights. That the U.S., in that instance, missed U.N. condemnation by only one vote, provides an indication of the high measure of agreement felt by the international community with regard to the arguments and charges expressed therein. However, U.N. consideration of the IHRAAM Petition is not enough. The Nation of Islam puts forward this Petition as a demand for action on African-American grievances by the Sub-Commission. Its failure to act appropriately will give the wrong message to the African-Americans, to the U.S. and to the world.
The U.S. government should not be given the tacit approval of the U.N. to continue to ignore past gross violations without compensation, nor to continue present gross violations against its national minorities. Surely, Members of the Sub-Commission, it is not your position nor that of the U.N., while situated in New York and surrounded by more than one million oppressed national minority members, to ignore their desperate plight, and at the same time assist U.S. human rights efforts in other countries. Surely, Mr. Secretary General and Sub-Commission Members, your position and that of the U.N. cannot be that in the U.S. only "white Americans" have internationally protected human rights, and that what is done to African-Americans does not count. The Nation of Islam is sure that this is not your position, nor that of the U.N.
In the name of African-American people, who are in full possession of their inherent human rights, the Nation of Islam calls upon the U.N. to intervene in favor of a sincere dialogue on the issues of reparations and self determination, and to act as a third party in setting up the situation wherein such a dialogue can occur. The African-American people do not believe that an honest, truly useful and equitable solution can be achieved without a significant degree of U. N. assistance. African-American history is filled with attempts at trying to achieve a sincere dialogue with the majority Government. All attempts to achieve domestic remedies have failed. In 400 years, African-Americans have not even come close to achieving equal-status relations with the Anglo-American majority ethnarchy which controls and runs the U.S. government as it sees fit, claims and distributes socio-economic resources as it sees fit, and ignores the human rights of African-Americans when it sees fit, etc.
Now African-Americans want their human rights, demands for equal status, self determination, and compensation for past and on-going gross violations to be heard and redressed, and are requesting U.N. assistance. This can be accomplished by observers being sent to the U.S., by an investigtive committee, by a special rapporteur’s investigation, by the opening of a forum at the U.N. wherein any and all sectors of the African-American community and the U.S. government will be able, without fear of retaliation, to express their grievances on the issues of self-determination and reparation for past and on-going gross violations of their human rights, and seek U. N. assistance in defining and resolving the crisis in this relation which has proved so destructive, not just to African-Americans, but to America as a whole. In this endeavor, the U.N. can expect the full coopertion and assistance of the Nation of Islam, and the vast majority of other African-American groups and individuals.
Members of the Sub-Commission:
African-Americans demand only those remedies that have been afforded to all other peoples or minorities, including the the indigenous peoples and minorities of most developed countries. If the U.S. government is sincere about dealing honestly and candidly with human rights problems of its African-American population, then it should not object to this time-honored process of third party (U.N.) assistance, mediation, conciliation or arbitration.
The Nation of Islam recalls:
At the beginning of their history in America, the enslaved Africans brought to America were defined in the same terms as the cattle belonging to the Anglo-American rulers. Thus, they were educated and socialized to accept that only the Anglo-American government could deal with their oppression. However convenient it was for the U.S. rulers, that time is now passe’. The African-American national minority is now emerging from the period of political domestification. It is only normal that it now begins, in addition to looking towards the majority government, to look towards the U.N. and the international community for technical, political and economic assistance. The U.N. cannot continue to ignore the oppression of national minorities in its host country, and still maintain it’s human rights credibility in the World.
The Nation of Islam salutes you, Mr. Secretary-General and Members of the Sub-Commission, and looks forward to a prompt reply. The African-American people continue to suffer as they have over the past 400 years of their unending struggle in the U.S. (See Appendix E) against gross human rights violations. The Nation of Islam request U.N. attention to this on-going problem of gross violations of the human rights of African-Americans without apology and compensation and in particular, to the present flagrant violation of the rights of African-Americans to special measures or affirmative action, which is viewed with such fear and rejection in the U.S. as to occasion the withdrawal of the nomination of Lani Guinier as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
The Nation of Islam recommends the opening of a forum (perhaps under the auspices of the Sub-Commission), similar to the one opened for Aboriginal peoples in Geneva so that African-American human rights grievances that form the basis of the present petition can be expressed, systematically and officially recorded, evaluated and remedied.
To achieve this hearing, the Nation of Islam looks forward to cooperation with the U.N. and the U.S. goernment to facilitate the success of an appropriate forum.
Chief Executive Officer of
The Lost-Found Nation of Islam
LIST OF APPENDICES
APPENDIX A: Detroit death of a black motorist
"Detroit’s Brutal Lessons," Newsweek, November 30, 1992
"Cops on Trial," Time, November 30, 1982
"Ex-Officers in Detroit Guilty in Beating Death of Motorist," New York Times, August 24th, 1992
APPENDIX B: Historical Judicial Bias in U.S. Courts
Excerpts from Y. N. Kly, The Anti-Social Contract, Clarity Press, Atlanta, 1989
APPENDIX C: Contemporary Status of Civil Rights/Non-Discrimination in U. S. Courts
"The Court, Still Haggling Over Rights, "New York Times, June 14, 1989
"A Changed Court Revises Rules on Civil Rights," New York Times, June 18, 1989
Excerpts from "On Being Overly Discreet and Insular: Involuntary Groups and the Anglo-American Judicial Tradition," by Aviam Soifer, Dean of Law, Boston College, in The Protection of Minorities and Human Rights, ed. Yoram Dinstein and Mala Tabory, 1992
Excerpts from "Sins of Discrimination: Last Term’s Affirmative Action Cases", by Kathleen M. Sullivan, Assistant Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, in Harvard Law Review; Vol. 100, No 1, Nov. 86
APPENDIX D: History of Slavery
"The African Slave Trade," National Geographic, September, 1992
APPENDIX E: African-American Resistance
"Chronology of U. S. Slave Rebellions and Conspiracies, 1663-1863," The Negro Almanac: A Reference Work on the African-American, 5th Edition. Compiled edited by Perry A. Plooskie and James Williams, Gale Research Inc., Detroit, 1989
Excerpts from the presentation of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement before an African-American Community Hearing on Human Rights Violations, June 7-10, 1990
APPENDIX F: Evidence of Murder, Torture and Violence Against African-Americans
Chapter titled "The Evidence," from We Charge Genocide, 1960
Excerpts from Communication to the U. N. Commission on Human Rights titled "Human Rights Violations by the Police Against Blacks in the U. S. A.", submitted by A. Ray McCoy, June 10, 1982 and June 29, 1983. Document prepared by the Coalition Against Police Abuse, Los Angeles
APPENDIX G: Documentation of U. S. Government’s Political Intimidation and harrassment of African-American Leadership and Population
"Well, Not So Extraordinary: Spy Networks II," The Nation, May 3, 1993
Presidential Review Memorandum/NSC-46, Zbigniew Brezinski, Carter Administration, 1978
"Amnesty Int’l target racist use of death penalty", Workers World, April 26, 1987
Letter re Operation Weed and Seed, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, March 26, 1992
APPENDIX H: Indices of African-American Inequality
"U. S. Imprisons Black Men at 4 times S. Africa’s Rate", L. A. Times, January 5, 1991
"Anger Over Racism is Seen as a Cause of Blacks High Blood Pressure", New York Times, April 24, 1990
"White Families’ Wealth Put at 10 Times Blacks", L. A. Times, January 11, 1991
"The Death Gap: Life expectancy for blacks decreases to 69.2 but stands at 75.6 for whites"
Disproportionality of African-American Involvement in the Criminal Justice System
Statistical and other citations, The Negro Almanac: A Reference Work on the African-American, 5th Edition. Compiled and edited by Perry A. Plooskie and James Williams, Gale Research Inc., Detroit, 1989, (67 pages)
APPENDIX I: The Guinier Nomination
NAACP Bulletin, July 30, 1993
Compilation of articles from The New York Times
"Getting Guinier", The Nation, May 31, 1993
"The Voting Rights Act: A Troubled Past," Newsweek, June 14, 1993
"Withdraw Guinier," The New Republic, June 14, 1993
"The Turning", The New Republic, June 28, 1993
"Clinton’s Drift Left on Civil Rights has Business Edgy," Business Week; May 31, 1993
APPENDIX J: African-American Efforts to Achieve Domestic Remedy
APPENDIX K: African-American Initiatives to the International Community