CARICOM wants slavery reparations

KAREN JUANITA CARRILLO | 2/13/2014, 11:21 a.m.
There is a growing interest among Caribbean countries to get European nations to pay reparations for their past transatlantic trade ...

There is a growing interest among Caribbean countries to get European nations to pay reparations for their past transatlantic trade of enslaved Africans.

During the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) July 2013 meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean government representatives agreed to establish National Committees on Reparations to study each nation’s individual case for reparations and to create a CARICOM Reparations Commission. CARICOM has also hired the British law firm Leigh Day & Co. to help start a reparations dialogue with past slave-owning European countries like Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines and Suriname have already followed through and created their own National Committees on Reparations. In a press release posted this past December, the CARICOM Reparations Commission stated: “The Commission affirmed the argument that Caribbean societies have been built upon transatlantic slave trading and chattel slavery, which have been declared by the United Nations as crimes against humanity. These societies are uniquely placed to advance the global cause of truth, justice and reconciliation within the context of reparatory justice for the victims and their descendants who continue to suffer harm as a consequence of these crimes.”

CARICOM’s Reparations Commission has classified the following six characteristics—which they say are commonly found in their nations—as reasons for a reparations dialogue: public health problems, including chronic diseases; education deficits and development challenges; a lack of established cultural institutions; cultural deprivation caused by the rupture of established African cultures; psychological trauma caused by more than 400 years of African dehumanization; and scientific and technological backwardness caused by colonial laws that emphasized the production of raw materials and prevented manufacturing or industrial progress.

Some experts are estimating that the cost for CARICOM’s case for reparations from former European colonial countries could come to as much as $100 trillion.

In a Feb. 9 exclusive interview with one of Britain’s largest Black newspapers, The Voice, Martyn Day, a senior partner at Leigh Day & Co., spoke about the moral aspects of the case. “The fact that it is a case involving issues that are 200 to 400 years old is a massive impediment to a victory,” Day pointed out. “But we feel the morality of the whole thing is very strong, and I think there is a real prospect that we will be able to persuade the British government and other governments of the Western powers to sit around the table and try to resolve it. The morality of the case is massive, and I think it will be very well recognized.”

Day added, “A case as old as this is always going to be a big hurdle to get over, but I wouldn’t get into it if I didn’t feel there was a fighting chance. The intention is for the [CARICOM] governments to reach an amicable deal with the Western powers rather than fighting through the courts. If that can’t be done, then we are clear this matter will go before the ICJ [International Court of Justice].”