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Caricom to present reparations demand letters to Europe in July

4/14/2014, 6 a.m.
Joyce Banda

Caribbean trade bloc states planning to fight Europe for compensation for the Trans Atlantic African slave trade this week said they are prepared to take their case all the way to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Netherlands if the former participating nations ignore their demands for justice a regional official said.

Eric Phillips who heads the Guyana Reparations Committee and sits on the Caricom Reparations Commission said governments will in “early July hand letters of demand to various European nations” pushing them to formally start negotiations with countries affected by the slave trade.

Caribbean leaders had in July of last year endorsed a regional effort long started by the Caribbean Rastafari Movement and other civil society groups to make nations like Britain, France, Portugal Holland, Spain and others to own up to the horrors of the slave trade and compensate the survivors of the genocide.

Last month, the leaders discussed the issue at length at their mid-year summit in St. Vincent where they also met with a British firm governments have retained to fight the reparations case on their behalf.

Leigh Day and Co had won millions in compensation from Britain for atrocities committed against the Mau Mau Tribe in Kenya during the colonial era. The firm has already said that it thinks the region has a strong and very winnable case to make as its attorneys urged leaders to press ahead with the case even though a British government minister had said London will ignore the region.

Phillips noted that committees across the region have been holding national consultations in the build-up to July to whip up support from citizens, garner feedback and lay the ground work for the next stages in the fight.

“We will take the matter all the way to the ICJ if those countries fail to respond,” Phillips said. “Attached to the letters will be a summary of the indigenous genocide committed on the African people in the Caribbean detailing their historical experiences and other forms of injustice during that era.”

In the case of Guyana, letters will be handed into Britain and Holland which had dominated the slave trade in the country. Over in Suriname, demand letters will surely be handed to the Dutch while others like Trinidad and some of the smaller islands will also include Spain and France depending on their historical experiences.

The regional commission is to next meet in Guyana or Suriname later this month to refine the plans to take on Europe.