14 Caribbean Nations Sue Former Colonizers for Slave Trade

In the United States, the idea of reparations has surfaced a number of times over the years, but have never been paid out.

Slavery illustration

Fourteen Caribbean nations have resolved to sue their former colonizers — Britain, France and the Netherlands — for lingering harms that they attribute to the slave trade.

Five years ago, Britain, France and the Netherlands were sued by 14 Caribbean countries demanding what could be hundreds of billions of pounds in reparations for slavery. Around 175 years after Britain freed its last slaves in the West Indies, an alliance of Caribbean nations is demanding to be repaid for the ‘awful’, lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade. Caricom, a group of 12 former British colonies together with the former French colony Haiti and the Dutch-held Suriname, believed the European governments should pay – and the UK in particular.

In 2008, Barack Obama said he did not support reparations to the descendants of slaves, going against the views of around two dozen members of Congress who sponsored legislation to create a commission on slavery.

In the same year, the House apologised for slavery, with the Senate following suit in 2009, but neither mentioned compensation.

Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, said European nations must pay for the slave trade

In its lawsuit, Caricom claims slavery condemned the region to a poverty that still afflicts it today. Spurred by a sense of injustice that has lingered for two centuries, the countries plan to compile an inventory of the lasting damage they believe they suffered and then demand an apology and reparations from the former colonial powers of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

The AP reports that the leaders of the Caribbean Community, a regional consortium, adopted a 10-point plan that would seek an official apology, a cancelation of debts and assistance for cultural and educational institutions.

The regional consortium has hired British human rights firm Leigh Day to pursue the case. Leigh Day previously secured $21.5 million for Kenyans who were tortured under Britain’s colonial era government.

(Pictured:  Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves)

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