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Caribbean countries discuss slave trade reparation demands

More then a dozen regional nations meet to demand slavery reparations

Politicians, lawyers and academics are gathering in St Vincent and the Grenadines to plan an effort by more than a dozen regional nations to seek slavery reparations.

They are demanding compensation from three European countries that benefited from the Atlantic slave trade.

The three-day conference, which began on Monday, is the first major step forward since the Caribbean Community (Caricom) announced in July that it intended to demand compensation for slavery and the genocide of native peoples from the governments of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

Representatives from all the member nations and territories of Caricom are attending the gathering.

St Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is leading the effort, said the matter was a "fundamental, defining matter of our age.

"The European nations which engaged in conquest, settlement, genocide and slavery in our Caribbean must provide the reparatory resources required to repair the contemporary legacy of their historic wrongs."

There has been no figure mentioned yet Mr Gonsalves said reparations must "bear a close relationship to what was illegally or wrongly extracted and exploited ... from the Caribbean by European colonialists, including compensation paid to the slave owners at the time of the abolition of slavery."

When Britain abolished slavery in 1834 it paid £20 million to British planters in the Caribbean - the equivalent of £200 billion today.

The Caribbean governments have brought on board British law firm Leigh Day, which won compensation for Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government as they fought for the liberation of their country during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and '60s.

Lawyer Martyn Day said: "All the Caricom countries are keen to seek resolution amicably with the former slave nation states."

But if that does not succeed they will go to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations' highest judicial body.

"The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity - a legacy that exists today in our Caribbean - ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of all our peoples," Mr Gonsalves said.


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