Oral Statement to the Forum on Minority Issues, First Session,
Agenda Item VI: The Relationship Between De-Segregation Strategies,
Cultural Autonomy and Integration in the Quest for Social Cohesion, December 2008
Greetings Madam Chair, Madam Gay McDougall, Experts, Country Representatives, Scholars and Minorities:
One of the purposes of this Forum is the identification of challenges and problems facing minorities and States. We, Afrodescendants, want for ourselves and for our children an education, especially now at our inception as an internationally recognized human family. We want an education in our original (mother) tongue. UN scholars state that language, not just any language, but one's "mother tongue" is intimately bound with identity. Thus, the right to such an education is an identity right.
Article 1, Section 1.1 of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Minorities indicates States shall protect and promote the identity of minorities. The United States of America, mainly, as well as other States, have breached this United Nations obligation. Since the abolition of slavery until now, Afrodescendants have been denied self-identity: education in our mother tongue. It is the very dignity we are without. The former slave-holding States have a duty to protect not only the existence but the national, ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of Minorities.
Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni stated, in his final report to the 56th session of the Commission on Human Rights, that economic compensation for victims of gross violations of human rights should be provided for any assessable damage resulting from violations of international human rights and humanitarian law: (b) lost opportunities, including education. Since we were forcibly deprived of our mother tongue due to slavery and its lingering effects, we want compensation from those States, especially the United States, responsible for denying us an education intimately bound with identity. Afrodescendants claim the right to compensation for violations of international law, articulated in the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities as well as Article 27 of the ICCPR, due to lost opportunities, including education.
In conclusion, we suggest that the regional forums for Afrodescendants, started under the auspices of the former Working Group on Minorities, be continued so that Afrodescendants can discuss practical, acceptable and adaptable solutions to the unique problems we face.
Mr. Silis Muhammad