Caribbean nations sue Europe over slavery

Fourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of Britain, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade, AlJazeera.com said on September 27.

In a September 27 speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said the European nations must pay for their deeds.

“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity — a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean — ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said.

The lawsuits, which AlJazeera.com said would likely to amount to a lengthy battle, were brought by The Caribbean Community (Caricom), a regional group that pushes economic integration. They will be brought to the UN's International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

The article said “the countries will focus on Britain for its role in slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean, France for slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a Caricom member and former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America”.

Gonsalves and Verene Shepherd, chairwoman of the national reparations commission in Jamaica, have both mentioned the fact that Britain at the time of emancipation in 1834 paid 20 million pounds — the equivalent of 200 billion pounds today — to British planters in the Caribbean.

“Our ancestors got nothing,” Shepherd said. “They got their freedom and they were told ‘Go develop yourselves.'”