UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who lived through apartheid in South Africa, has likened the brutal, racist police crackdown on the recent nonviolent uprising in Ferguson, Missouri to the violence she saw under the horrific white supremacist system in her home country.
“I condemn the excessive use of force by the police and call for the right of protest to be respected,” the official declared, in a 19 August 2014 interview.
She continued, noting that, “…coming from apartheid South Africa I have long experience of how racism and racial discrimination breeds conflict and violence. … These scenes are familiar to me and privately I was thinking that there are many parts of the United States where apartheid is flourishing.”
In the interview, she connected poverty and racism, pointing out that black Americans are disproportionately poor, and even spoke of mass incarceration. “Apartheid is also where law turns a blind eye to racism,” she stated, indirectly implying that the US is indeed an apartheid state.
Reuters continues, reporting
Scenes of heavily armed American police and now National Guard troops confronting demonstrators have become daily fixtures on television around the world, not least in countries branded abusers of human rights by the United States.
From Egypt urging “restraint” on U.S. police to Iran calling Washington the “biggest violator of human rights” and Chinese state media suggesting it clean up its own act before “pointing fingers at others”, Ferguson has been seized on by governments weary of criticism from the United States and the U.N. watchdog.
(The US is indeed horribly repressive and its police force is incredibly racist, but let’s all take a moment to enjoy a big hearty laugh at the notion of bloody dictator Sisi telling the US to practice restraint.)
The Reuters article gives some more background about Pillay’s life and achievements.
Pillay, an ethnic Tamil, was raised in Durban and worked for more than 30 years as a defense attorney including for anti-apartheid activists, exposing torture and helping to win rights on Robben Island, where prisoners included Nelson Mandela.
President Mandela appointed her in 1995 to be the first black woman judge on the South African High Court and then asked her to serve as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She was later elected judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“My life experience has influenced my approach to these matters. I saw these things from the perspective of those who suffer and how important justice and accountability was for us,” she said.
If someone who lived through apartheid, and then served on the South African High Court, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and International Criminal Court says “there are many parts of the United States where apartheid is flourishing,” we should heed her warnings. This is about as legitimate of a declaration that the US is an apartheid state that we’ll ever hear.