Martinique court dismisses reparations for slavery

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AP) — An appeals court on the French Caribbean island of Martinique on Tuesday dismissed a petition by groups seeking reparations for slavery, dealing a blow to efforts begun more than 15 years.

The court gave several reasons for its ruling, noting that there is a statute of limitations for such crimes and that a French law already allows the application of certain measures aimed at “providing a commemorative contribution to the recognition of slavery and the slave trade”, and that it is not for the judiciary to decide whether these measures are sufficient.

Patrick Baudouin, one of the two lawyers representing the French State, said that the sentence “is not a denial decision that questions the abomination of slavery”, but that the plaintiffs are aiming at the wrong target: “It is not the responsibility of a judge grant reparations, centuries later”.

Slavery was abolished in France in 1848, and government lawyers have argued that the so-called Taubira law—which dates from 2001 and is named after a 2022 French presidential candidate—allows the slave trade and slavery to be recognized as crimes against humanity, but that the issue of financial reparations had been dismissed.

Undeterred by Tuesday’s ruling, the International Movement for Reparations and others who joined the lawsuit against the French government have vowed to seek a Supreme Court ruling on a civil legal proceeding they began in 2005.

The French courts have repeatedly rejected her request, but it has been the European Court of Human Rights that has kept her alive by admitting her claims.

“History will prove us right, and time is on our side,” said Garcin Malsa, president of the movement, adding that “this affair will expose the horrors of French and European colonialism. We are going to encourage as many people of African descent as possible to file a lawsuit.”

The issue of reparations is widely debated throughout the Caribbean, where an estimated 5 million slaves were brought by colonial powers, including England and France, and forced to work on sugar plantations and other farms under harsh conditions. brutal.

Martinican poet and politician Aimé Césaire, founder of the Négritude movement, declared in a 2001 interview with the French newspaper L’Express that he was not in favor of repentance or reparations.

“In my opinion, this idea of ​​reparations is even dangerous,” he said. “I would not like Europe to say to itself one fine day: ‘Well, here is the note or the check, and let’s not talk about it any more! There is no possible repair for something that is irreparable and that is not quantifiable”.


Associated Press writer Nicolas Vaux-Montagny contributed to this report from Paris.

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