CARICOM Prepares Demand Letters

Caribbean trade bloc governments, historians and rights groups are preparing for the next big step in the fight to make Europe compensate for the TransAtlantic African slave trade.

They plan to serve-up demand letters to several European capitals in the next 10 weeks; and if those governments refuse to accept the letters or act on them, the region is prepared to take its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Netherlands for a resoliution, officials said his week.

National reparations committees across the region are now organizing town hall meetings and consultations with attorneys in time to meet the early-July trek to Europe, to hand in letters of demand detailing the horrors of the Slave Trade and its effects on the health and well-being, the state of mind and other negatives associated with slavery, genocide and servitude.

Eric Phillips, who heads the Guyana Reparations Committee and sits on the CARICOM Reparations Commission, said governments “in early July will hand letters of demand to various European nations” to push them to formally start negotiations with countries affected by the slave trade.

Last July, Caribbean leaders had endorsed a regional effort — long started by the Caribbean Rastafari Movement and other civil society groups to make nations like Britain, France, Portugal, Holland, Spain and others own up to the horrors of the slave trade and compensate the survivors of the genocide.

Last month at their mid-year summit in St. Vincent, the leaders discussed the issue and retained a British firm to fight the reparations case on their behalf.

The law firm, Leigh Day & Company, had won millions in compensation from Britain for atrocities committed against the Mau Mau Tribe in Kenya during the colonial era. The firm already has said that it thinks the region has a strong and very winnable case to make, as its attorneys urged leaders to press ahead with the case even though a British government minister had said London will ignore the region.

Phillips noted that committees across the region have been holding national consultations in the build-up to July, to whip up support from citizens, garner feedback and lay the ground work for the next stages in the fight.

“We will take the matter all the way to the ICJ if those countries fail to respond,” Phillips said, addimng: “Attached to the letters will be a summary of the indigenous genocide committed on the African people in the Caribbean detailing their historical experiences and other forms of injustice during that era,”

In the case of Guyana, letters will be handed into Britain and Holland, the countries which had dominated the slave trade in the country.

Over in Suriname, demand letters will surely be handed to the Dutch while others like Trinidad&Tobago and some of the smaller islands will also include Spain and France, depending on their historical experiences.

The regional commission is to meet next in Guyana or Suriname later this month to refine the plans to take on Europe.

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