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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Caribbean States Seek Restitution

The EU Observer reports:
Fourteen Caribbean nations are seeking reparations from Britain, France and the Netherlands for over 400 years of slavery brought to their islands by the former colonial powers. 
Caribbean leaders made their case at the United Nations' general assembly last week.
“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples. The European nations must partner in a focused, special way with us to execute this repairing," said the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves.
 
Gonsalves is spearheading the effort on behalf of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), a regional organisation which focusses on economic integration.

Caricom has now hired British human rights law firm Leigh Day to prepare the legal challenge with the International Court of Justice based in the Hague.
 
Leigh Day has already successfully fought for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans tortured by the British in the so-called Mau Mau rebellion in 1952-1960.
 I don't see how the Caribbean nations can claim damages--the nations weren't harmed by the slavery. They didn't even exist at the time.

I don't see why the descendants of the slaves can claim damages because, again, they can't claim they personally suffered any harm. Really, are the descendants worse off than if their ancestors had been sold into slavery to a Middle-Eastern country, or just killed by the African tribesmen who captured them. What if they were still in Africa? Would they be better off in Africa than in the Caribbean?

What about the defendants. The modern state of France didn't exist at that time. It is debatable whether England and the Netherlands has had a contiguous government. Why isn't Spain or Portugal named? Given the power of the monarchs during the slave period, perhaps the monarchs are more properly defendants. But even then, the current monarchs are not the ones that made the decisions--those people are long dead.

Finally, although this may sound trite, it wasn't illegal at the time, even pursuant to what then might have been termed "international law".

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