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Caribbean Nations Sue Europe Over Slavery

The leaders of 15 Caribbean nations voted unanimously on Monday to sue England and European nations like France and the Netherlands over the scourge of slavery.

The long-overdue lawsuit will seek a formal apology, debt cancellation and other reparations in a 10-part plan. The Caribbean nations, represented by British human rights law firm Leigh Day, will also seek a “repatriation” plan for Rastafarians who want to move to Africa. Associated Press notes, “Repatriation to Africa has long been a central belief of Rastafari, a melding of Old Testament teachings and Pan-Africanism whose followers have long pushed for reparations.”

A idea of a multi-nation lawsuit has been discussed for decades but was never acted on until Monday. Various leaders from former colonizers have spoken about their regrets regarding their countries’ slave trades. Tony Blair in 2007 talked about the “unbearable suffering” of slavery imposed by the British Empire and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010 forgave Haiti’s debt of 56 million euros as part of an aid package to the country.

But so far neither country issued a formal apology on behalf of their governments, and the group of Caribbean nations said far more needs to be done by way of reparations in consideration of “persistent racial victimization of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today.”

Interestingly the United States was not named in the lawsuit—probably because the bulk of the American slave trade was from Africa, not the Caribbean. But it still somehow seems unsettling to have the first international lawsuit over slavery not include the U.S., which grew into the world’s dominant superpower on the backs of slaves.

The firm representing the Caribbean nations called their requests a “fair set of demands on the governments whose countries grew rich at the expense of those regions whose human wealth was stolen from them.”

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