GENOCIDE/ECOCIDE & REPARATIONS

Reparations are not just a legal case or a political claim but also a social movement. In ‘An Approach to Reparations’ Human Rights Watch maintain that “when addressing relatively old wrongs, claims of reparations should not be based on the past abuses of enslavement and colonisation solely, but on its contemporary effects.”[1] They point out that people today, i.e. the descendants of the enslaved who can reasonably claim that today they personally suffer the effects of past human rights violations through continuing economic or social deprivation are deserving of reparations.

Genocide

VARGAS
There is great potential in utilising the 1948 Convention on the Prevention of Genocide as an advocacy tool. In his book Never Meant to Survive: Genocide and Utopias in Black Diaspora Communities, Joao H. Vargas, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology establishes that the relentless and intergenerational oppression and marginalisation of large numbers of Black people in modern societies constitutes genocide, in that groups among us are subjected to conditions of life that are sufficiently destructive to amount to instances of genocide. In this regard it is important to also understand indirect genocide (which involves creating life conditions which destroy a group and facilitate intra-community violence).

According to Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term genocide, genocide has two phases: one, the destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.[2] In the 1948 Genocide Convention, genocide is therefore defined as follows:

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Vargas poses the following challenge: “We either begin to address, redress, and do away with what make possible the multiple facets of anti-Black genocide, or we succumb to the dehumanising values that produce and become reproduced by the systematic and persistent disregard for the lives of Afro-descended individuals and their communities.” [3]

Ecocide

NIGER DELTA
Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished. [4]

The call to make Ecocide an international crime dates back to 1972 when over 7,000 people took to the streets in Stockholm in 1972 to demand that Ecocide be a crime. It was the time of the Vietnam War and world leaders had met in Stockholm to resolve environmental issues at an international level for the first time. A draft Ecocide Convention was submitted into the UN in 1973 which intended to make ecocide the 5th crime against peace (in addition to the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, the crime of aggression).

In 2010, the proposal to amend the Rome Statute to include an international crime of Ecocide was submitted by Polly Higgins into the International Law Commission (ILC).

The inclusion of Ecocide law as international law prohibits mass damage and destruction of the Earth and, as defined above, creates a legal duty of care for all inhabitants that have been or are at risk of being significantly harmed due to Ecocide. This campaign continues!

Notes
[1] http://www.hrw.org/legacy/campaigns/race/reparations.htm
[2] Raphael Lemkin, ‘Axis Rule in Occupied Europe’ (1944)
[3] J.H. Vargas Never Meant to Survive: Genocide and Utopias in Black Diaspora Communities (New York, Toronto, Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008), p.x
[4] http://eradicatingecocide.com/the-law/what-is-ecocide/.

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