September 22, 2020

No sane court will rule for reparations


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Ta-Nehisi-Coates-writes-a-reparations-piece-for-The-Atlantic.-www.financialjuneteenth.com_By Michael A. Dingwall For iNews Cayman

When this reparations issue is finally taken to court, that court, any court, even our own Caribbean Court of Justice will set certain parameters that such a case will be heard. Trying cases like reparations, that involves peoples and cultures that are long extinct, will not be like any other normal case.

Though the long list of reasons will not allow me to explain why the case for reparations will be crushed in any court, I will focus on the weak moral and legal case that pro-reparationists will present. One clear boundary that such a case will have to be placed in by any court trying this case will be the correct historical context. As such, any appeal to modern conventions on slavery and human rights, like the Durham Conference and others, that were constructed long after slavery was made a global crime will be ignored.

One argument that those fighting for reparations will bring to court will be the claim that slavery was a crime and that it was morally abhorrent. This argument is going to be impossible to defend, in the face of the overwhelming evidence that is against it.

Anti-reparationists will find defending the argument that slavery at the time was legal very easy. They can establish the legality of slavery in Africa by pointing to the many house, field, war and temple slaves, among others that existed in African societies. They will point to the annual renewal festival that was held in Dahomey, in which, over time, hundreds of thousands of slaves were sacrificed in religious rituals and they can point to the millions of slaves that were exported to the west by African kingdoms like Ashanti, Benin, Congo and many others.

As to slavery in the Caribbean, its legality cannot be contested too. The anti-reparationists only have to point to Jamaica’s maroons who agreed to help the British preserve the slave system on the island. The peace treaty that they signed that obligated them to send escaped slaves back to their plantations is powerful anti-reparations evidence.

Added to this, the court will be reminded that even the slaves saw the institution as morally acceptable. Anti-reparationists will point to Sam Sharpe and his rebellion, in which Sharpe’s original issue was not the morality of slavery, but the conditions under which slaves had to work.

Also, anti-reparationists will point to Haiti’s payment of reparations to France as proof that while the Haitians thought that slavery couldn’t work in their country, they recognized the need for France to be compensated for the loss of her slave assets.

All of these evidence, and there are many more, would convince any court that slavery was not only legal but morally acceptable at the time – both in Africa and the West. Notice that the European laws regulating the institution of slavery were not looked at. Those are well-known to all. This would also prove that the Europeans saw slavery as legal and morally acceptable.

However, there is one law that pro-reparationists will use to argue their weak case. This is the law passed in Britain during the height of slavery that made capturing slaves a crime. Anti-reparationists will point to the fact that hardly any British subject was ever prosecuted on account of this law and the fact that the slave supply was not affected as proof that it was the Africans who were capturing the slaves. The British could not have made laws for the Africans – you see.

Anti-reparationists have more than enough historical evidence to convince any court that slavery during its time was legal and morally acceptable. As such, the case of the pro-reparationists is without merit and must be thrown out.


Related story:

Caricom pushes forward agenda on reparations from Europe

Published October 12, 2014EFE

By Natalia Bonilla.

Former European colonies in the Caribbean will resume talks on Monday on developing a strategy to claim reparations from Europe over slavery suffered centuries ago.

In its Second Conference of the Reparations Commission, the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, will continue discussions over the 10-point plan that contemplates asking former colonial powers for a formal apology, the cancellation of the foreign debt and the repatriation of descendants, among other demands.

CARICOM members’ reparations strategy may serve as a model for African countries looking to do the same, experts told Efe.

“CARICOM member states are not willing to accept a ‘no,’ they are not willing to be marginalized,” University of South Africa law professor Jeremy Sarkin said.

The expert acknowledged that CARICOM has created an exemplary structure since it intends to make demands at “a political level, from state to state,” and not as communities, organizations or individuals from Africa have done.

Sarkin told Efe the concept of reparations gained force in 1993 at the 1st Pan-African Conference on Reparations held in Nigeria, where Jamaican lawyer Anthony Gifford argued that African slavery was a crime against humanity and international law recognizes that those who committed this crime should compensate victims.

The international debate, moreover, gained momentum at the World Conference on Reparations to Africa in 1999 and, two years later, at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

“These past 15 years the climate of reparations is more ripe, people understand the issues more,” Sarkin, the author of “Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century,” told Efe.

Caribbean and African countries do not see reparations as an easy way to financial recovery, but they are primarily searching for acknowledgment of wrongdoing, Sarkin said.

“All there has been is a few apologies for concrete instances, and a few reparations for particular cases, such as to former freedom fighters in Kenya,” Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, research chair at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Canada, told Efe.

Previous attempts to gain reparations failed in Africa because European powers lack the political will to meet the demands and all the claims were pursued by individuals or organizations, not by states, Sarkin said in a telephone interview with Efe.

The law professor argued that former colonial powers listen to a certain extent, but they fear “opening a Pandora’s box because they don’t know how many problems will come out.”

“What are the 10 major legacies that European colonization have left behind? Issues of illiteracy. Issues of ill health. Issues of poor infrastructure. Issues of backward agricultural economies. And it goes on,” Hilary Beckles, chair of the CRC, said in May 2014.

The fact that 13 of the 15 CARICOM members have national commissions on reparations indicates “they are more willing to take a stand” as “they are aware of the pros and cons of their actions,” Sarkin said.

“African states feared their claims could undermine their relationships with former colonial powers” since most of them receive European foreign aid, he said.

Howard-Hassmann, for her part, said “former colonial powers are unlikely to offer reparations to Africa as a whole. Any financial reparations would be subject to all the same conditions and problems as foreign aid.”

Both academics agreed that the reparations process would take a long time, but Sarkin emphasized that these cases truly respond to a need on the part of Caribbean and African peoples that wish to heal wounds from the past by getting Europe to accept responsibility for the damage done to their ancestors. EFE

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