By Jutta Wolf
United Nations experts have strongly criticised Germany for “crimes against Africans and people of African descent” adding that they are “deeply concerned about the human rights situation of people of African descent” in the country.
“Germany’s crimes against Africans and people of African descent are overshadowed by its focus on other parts of its history. Germany’s colonial past, the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama peoples, and the sterilization, incarceration, and murder of Black people during Nazi Germany, is not adequately addressed in the national narrative,” said the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in a statement to the media on February 27.
“The Berlin Africa conference in 1884 had a devastating and lasting impact on the continent of Africa,” five independent experts comprising the Working Griup recalled. They include: Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines), current Chair-Rapporteur; Michal Balcerzak (Poland); Mireille Fanon Mendes-France (France), Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa) and Ahmed Reid (Jamaica).
“The genocide and abuse suffered by the Ovaherero and Nama peoples at the hands of the German authorities has left an indelible stain on the souls of the victims, as well as the perpetrators,” the statement said.
While taking note that the German government has apologized for the genocide and is providing targeted development projects, “the Working group regrets that the German Government has thus far not seriously consulted with the lawful representatives of the minority and indigenous victims of that genocide to discuss reparations”.
The statement by UN experts added: “Germany should recall its own share in the history of colonization, enslavement and genocide, and use a reparatory justice approach as a way forward. The Ovaherero and Nama people must be included in the negotiations currently ongoing between the German and Namibian governments.”
They further urge the Government to “legally recognize people of African descent in Germany as a minority group who have made and continue to make profound economic, political, social, cultural contributions to Germany”.
Despite Germany’s promotion of multiculturalism and diversity, and a series of “positive measures” to address structural racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance, “the Working Group is deeply concerned about the human rights situation of people of African descent in Germany”.
While the Basic Law guarantees equality, prohibits racial discrimination, and states that human dignity is inviolable, it is not being enforced, the experts said.
“While people of African descent are a diverse group their daily lives are marked by racism, negative stereotypes and structural racism. They are targeted and victims of racist violence and hate crimes. They fear for their safety and avoid certain places as they will be attacked. They are subjected to racial discrimination by their classmates, teachers, workmates, and structural racism by the government and criminal justice system. Despite the gravity of the situation they are not officially recognized as a group particularly exposed to racism.”
The experts take note that the Government is developing a new National Action Plan Against Racism and has created a NGO Forum for consultation with civil society, but “unfortunately no organization working for the rights of people of African descent has been selected to participate so far”.
The UN experts have urged the Government of Germany to undertake serious efforts to combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance. Some of the recommendations are:
Use of the term Afrophobia to describe the unique and specific form of racial discrimination affecting people of African descent and African Diaspora.
In consultation with people of African descent, find ways to create memorials to honor people of African descent and African victims of historic tragedies.
Replace street names that are insulting to people of African descent and replace with names which honour people of African descent.
Ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Respect the rights of people of African descent in accordance with Article 1 of the Basic Law. Formulate a definition of racial discrimination in accordance with Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and review and change all laws and regulations that lead to de-facto racial discrimination such as the Federal Police Act.
Create a National Institution to represent the interest of people of African descent in Germany to research and develop policies to address issues faced by people of African descent.
The statement said: “The views expressed in this statement are of a preliminary nature and our final findings and recommendations will be presented in our mission report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2017.”
The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on April 25, 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban in 2001.