Caribbean reparations fight takes new turn: Swiss were also involved

Bert Wilkinson | 1/24/2019, midnight
The fight by Caribbean Community nations to make Britain and other former slave-trading European nations pay for one of the ...
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The fight by Caribbean Community nations to make Britain and other former slave-trading European nations pay for one of the worst genocides in human history has taken an interesting turn, with researchers unearthing evidence that the Swiss were also involved.

This much has emerged from a meeting of the Barbados-based CARICOM Reparations Commission, as it held its most recent session by video conference. Officials said that 12 of the 15 countries were represented at the three-hour conference.

An announcement said that the meeting entertained Swiss academic and researcher Dr. Hans Hassler on what he described as the northern European nation’s indirect role in the brutal transatlantic slave trade that cost the lives of millions of Africans.

Historian Hassler contended that although Switzerland had possessed no colonies itself, it nevertheless profited from the slave trade and should be held accountable.

He noted that Switzerland was a leading supplier of major business services that had enabled the trade to thrive and prosper. Services included the production and sale of marine instruments that helped with navigation of ships belonging to nations such as Britain, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Denmark and others.

Worse yet, the research has unearthed clear evidence that the nation was a supplier of mercenary soldiers, with the most glaring deployment occurring from 1772 to 1779 to fight, kill and severely torture both plantation and runaway slaves in the Americas. Battles in the years up to 1779 killed hundreds of tribal Aluka resistance fighters.

Until recently, the Swiss were not publicly known for any major role in the slave trade, but it is unclear if regional governments—which have plans to take the fight all the way to the World Court in The Netherlands—will add the country to the list of offending nations in the coming months. Demand notices for payments and for a summit meeting with European leaders have been sent to various capitals for more than a year now. Some countries have responded favorably, in that they are willing to sit down, whereas others have refused outright and some have yet to respond.

Additionally, the commission reported of its most recent meeting that another interesting development was discussed at length at the conference. This one relates to a commitment from the University of Glasgow in Scotland to make a payment of 200 million pounds sterling to the region as reparations for its role in the transatlantic genocide.

The argument is that the university benefited and profited from slave trade-era money, just like Barclays Bank and other British and European institutions. It appears that Glasgow prefers to move early and seal a numerical agreement than be forced to pay by court ruling or arbitration. Concurrently, a number of American universities, including some in Boston and others such as the University of Virginia, Harvard, Georgetown and Brown, have all begun looking into how they benefited from the trade. Most received millions to either start up or expand operations and are likely to be included on the list of defendants in the future.

Regional governments have already hired a British firm that won millions for descendants of Kenyan resistance fighters who were slaughtered by colonial era British soldiers to make and represent their case. The feedback from the firm is that the region has a strong and firm case to make and Europe a tough one to answer.