An Approach to Reparations

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Human Rights Watch traditionally advocates reparations as part of the remedy for any serious human rights abuse. For example, under traditional human rights law and policy, we expect governments that practice or tolerate racial discrimination to acknowledge and end this human rights violation and compensate the victims. However, the U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance - 2001 is likely to address a more complex reparations issue. It will ask whether, and if so how, reparations should be provided to people who may not have been the direct victims of racial discrimination but whose ancestors suffered such discrimination, particularly in the severe forms of slavery, the slave trade, certain especially racist aspects of colonialism, and other extreme official racist practices. This paper is Human Rights Watch's contribution to this debate. It is not a maximalist position but, rather, one that we hope will point the way to possible consensus on this contentious issue.