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Reparation: Where are we?

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Editor: In September 2013, the CARICOM Reparations Movement was launched in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This new initiative represented a new phase in the long campaign for reparations for the crimes against humanity that were committed by European Governments and corporate entities through their criminal enterprise of chattel slavery and genocide over an extended period (of over 250 years) in the Caribbean region.{{more}}

Since then, the movement has gained momentum. National Reparations Committees have been established in most of the CARICOM countries, including Suriname. A Caricom Reparations Commission has been established to advise Caricom Heads of Governments and advance the campaign at the regional level. Two major regional conferences have been held, the first in St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2013 and the second in Antigua and Barbuda in 2014. These conferences have brought together advocates for reparations, as well as several experts in various fields to examine and advance the reparations discourse.

The movement has developed a Ten Point Plan, upon which the demand for reparatory justice is predicated. This plan was forwarded to the various Caricom Governments. The Governments have been asked to invite the Governments of Europe to commence discussion on this plan. This invitation is being done through a letter of complaint to be sent by CARICOM Governments to the Governments of the United Kingdom and those in the rest of Europe.

This approach is the first step in a two-prong approach, where diplomacy would be attempted, but if diplomacy fails, then the issue will be taken to the International Court of Justice (World Court). The Movement is cognizant of the challenges that lie ahead. One of the key European Governments, the United Kingdom, has already indicated that it is not willing to engage the Governments of its former colonies in any discourse on reparations. Moreover, the second part of the strategy, that of taking the case to the World Court, will itself present many hurdles. The Court, we are told, cannot adjudicate on crimes against humanity that occurred before 1950!

The Movement is, however, not daunted; we had to and did find a creative way to get unanimity among Caribbean Heads of Government to adopt the issue. We had also to fashion the discourse in such a manner as to make it acceptable to Caribbean Governments and thus give them the confidence to commence the conversation with European Governments on the issue. The movement is therefore encouraged by these achievements.

We are further encouraged by other predisposing factors that include the confidence that we possess the expertise, conviction and commitment to pursue reparatory justice for the crimes of humanity committed against our people; the positive response of the international community to the Caricom initiative; the establishment of reparations commissions in Brazil, North America, and Europe; and the meetings that have commenced among the Caribbean and other Movements across the globe. We are encouraged also by the United Nations Declarations of the International Decade for People of African Descent, with the theme ‘People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development,’ which commenced on January 1, 2015 and will end on December 31, 2024.

This United Nations declaration has created the opportunity for us to bring closure to that barbaric period of slavery and genocide which 19th century ‘emancipation’ failed to effect. It will be to our lasting shame and disgrace if we failed to use this wonderful opportunity to try to secure reparatory justice for our ancestors and ourselves… Yes, ourselves because we are still being affected by the crimes committed against our people in the same way that many in Europe are still benefiting today from those crimes committed against our people by their people. REPARATIONS NOW! This is our rallying cry.

Curtis M King

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