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Reparations committee meets lawyers

Bert Wilkinson | 12/12/2013, 4:16 p.m.
Caribbean governments are serious about being paid by European countries for the horrors of the slave trade
CARICOM

Indicating that they are serious about being paid by European countries for the horrors of the slave trade, a committee appointed by Caribbean governments to take legal action against former slave trading nations is meeting with its international legal team in Jamaica this week to advance the plan to make Europe pay for the enslavement of Black people.

The regional reparations executive committee slated a preparatory meeting with the British law firm of Leigh Day & Co. at the beginning of the week, following a series of its own internal meetings since leaders approved plans to fight Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and other nations for payment for the transatlantic slave trade at their last summit in Trinidad in July.

The announcement by the Guyana-based Caribbean trade bloc secretariat stated that the committee has a mandate to “advance the moral, ethical and legal case for the payment of reparations by the governments of all the former colonial powers to the nations and people of the Caribbean for native genocide, the transatlantic slave trade and a radicalized system of chattel slavery.”

CARICOM, a grouping of 15 former colonies from Belize in Central America to Guyana and Suriname on South America’s Caribbean coast, has tapped the British firm largely because it has won international accolades for winning millions in compensation for hundreds of Kenyan Mau Mau tribesmen who were tortured by British soldiers and agents in colonial Kenya. Several other sessions are slated for next year as preparations heighten and various parliaments prepare to debate the issue in new sessions in the coming months.

The governments have not stated how much money they expect from the former European colonizing nations, but some leaders, like Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent, have pointed to the fact that Britain had even paid out about 20 million British pound sterling (about $33 million) in compensation to planters for losing slaves after abolition, contending that that sum would be equivalent of about 200 billion British pound sterling (about $328 billion) today.

CARICOM also said that six countries—Jamaica, Suriname, Barbados, St. Vincent, Belize and Antigua—have so far set up a national reparations committee to support the work of the executive body. The others are expected to join early next year in conformity with the order from the leaders conference in July. According to the announcement, conference officials are to brief Caribbean and other interested media later this week on the meeting with the famed law firm and will stream announcements live across the region to update people in the bloc about the latest developments.