France highest court rejects reparations request for slavery in Martinique
In a case that began on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, France’s highest court has rejected a request by three groups demanding reparations for slavery.
According to the court’s verdict on Wednesday, no individual offered evidence that they had “suffered individually” any damage from the crimes committed by their forebears.
Slavery was outlawed in France in 1848, but it had a large slave trade before to that, exporting over 1 million Africans to colonies in the Americas. In 2005, the International Movement for compensation and two other organizations initiated efforts to seek compensation. Although French courts consistently denied their plea, the European Court of Human Rights saved their efforts by making their claims admissible.
Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer pursuing the reparations action, termed the court’s decision “a new missed opportunity” in an emailed statement. But the fight goes on.” Spinosi stated that the groups would file a new petition with the European Court of Human Rights.
The question of reparations is hotly disputed throughout the Caribbean, where colonial powers such as Britain and France brought over an estimated 5 million slaves and forced them to toil on sugar plantations and other fields under harsh conditions.
An appeals court in Martinique, a French overseas department, rejected the groups’ request in 2022, noting that there is a statute of limitations for those crimes and that a French law already allows the implementation of certain measures intended to “bring a memorial contribution to the recognition of slavery and the slave trade,” and that it is not for the judiciary to decide whether those measures are sufficient.
Lee Yan is a journalist based in Cebu, Philippines. For the past 10 years, he has worked in the media and writes part-time for the St. Vincent Times.