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Britain's old slavery actions draws sue by Carribean states

13 March 2014 [10:53] - TODAY.AZ
More than 150 years after Europe abolished slavery, the Caribbean is preparing to sue Britain for its part in the wholesale trade of human beings.

A coalition of Caribbean leaders will meet today in St. Vincent to discuss a landmark legal claim for reparations - that could run into the hundreds of billions of pounds - for a legacy that many say still lingers across the palm-fringed archipelago.

Caricom, a group of 12 former British colonies together with the former French colony Haiti and the Dutch-held Suriname, believes Europe should pay for a range of issues spawned by slavery, from poverty and illiteracy to ill health.

But is says the UK in particular should pay the most even though it was the first to abolish slavery in 1833.

The case has been prepared by a British law firm that recently won almost £20million compensation for hundreds of Kenyans tortured by the British colonial government during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s.

Today's claim, which also targets Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, comes at a pertinent time for the issue of slavery - just a week after Steve McQueen's epic 12 Years A Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture in Los Angeles.

'Over ten million Africans were stolen from their homes and forcefully transported to the
Caribbean as the enslaved chattels and property of Europeans,' the claim says. 'The transatlantic slave trade is the largest forced migration in human history and has no parallel in terms of man's inhumanity to man.'

It continues: 'This trade in enchained bodies was a highly successful commercial business for the nations of Europe.

The lives of millions of men, women and children were destroyed in the search of profit. Over ten million Africans were imported into the Caribbean during the 400 years of slavery.
'At the end of slavery in the late 19th century, less than two million remained. The chronic health condition of Caribbean blacks constitutes the greatest financial risk to sustainability in the region.'

Caricom has not specified how much money they are seeking but senior officials have pointed out that Britain paid slave owners £20 million when it abolished slavery in 1834. That sum would be the equivalent of £200 billion today.

Britain currently contributes about £15million a year in aid to the Caribbean through Department for International Development in a drive to further develop 'wealth creation'.

The subject of reparations has simmered in the Caribbean for many years and opinions are divided. Some see reparations as delayed justice, while others see it as an empty claim and a distraction from modern social problems in Caribbean societies.

Slavery ended throughout the Caribbean in the 1800s in the wake of slave revolts, and left many of the region's plantation economies in tatters.

If the leaders decide to go ahead, a legal complaint will be filed against European states, possibly opening the way for formal negotiations.

'Undoubtedly, Britain faces more claims than anyone else because it was the primary slave power and colonial power in the Caribbean,' Martyn Day, the British lawyer advising the Caribbean nations, said in an interview. 'Britain will be very much at the forefront.'
Britain's government is aware of the proposed legal action, the Foreign Office said.



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