Caribbean Nations Seek Reparations From Europe

More than a dozen countries want compensation from Britain, France and the Netherlands.

Posted: 07/26/2013 12:30 PM EDT

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves have been leading the Caribbean's effort to seek reparations. (Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

As the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade continues to impact those living in the Caribbean, leaders of more than a dozen of these nations are seeking compensation from the governments of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

Caricom, a regional organization, is preparing to seek reparations for slavery and the genocide of native peoples, according to the Associated Press. They have formed the Reparations Commission and sought the help of British human rights law firm Leigh Day to see the effort through.

Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is leading the movement and says that widespread poverty and lack of development is an issue the entire region faces. He adds that an apology should come with any settlement, but that it is not enough. 

"The apology is important but that is wholly insufficient," he said in a phone interview Wednesday with the Associated Press. "We have to have appropriate recompense."

The Associated Press reports

The notion of forcing the countries that benefited from slavery to pay reparations has been a decades-long quest. Individual countries including Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda already had existing national commissions. Earlier this month, leaders from the 14 Caricom nations voted unanimously at a meeting in Trinidad to wage a joint campaign that those involved say would be more ambitious than any previous effort.

Each nation that does not have a national reparations commission agreed to set one up, sending a representative to the regional commission, which would be overseen by prime ministers. They agreed to focus on Britain on behalf of the English-speaking Caribbean as well as France for the slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America that is a member of Caricom.

In addition, they brought on the British law firm of Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government as they fought for the liberation of their country during the so-called Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s.

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