An open letter on Reparation – Legal proceeding update
“I am very glad that you have shown an interest for the action we are dealing with despite the initiative to sensitize the people of CARICOM about our problem which is to undertsand in the specific context of France and the French law system, the question of Reparation. The Commission of CARICOM for Reparation seems not to be very interested by the proceedings we are making to the French state. I have some difficulties to understand this, but it is a fact we have to deal with. After eight years of a juridical fight we have come to a point where we need to give an international dimension to our action which concerns in reality all the Descendants of deported or enslaved Africans all over the world. As soon as you can prove that you have an ancestor who had contact with the French slave trader,that has spread all over the world, you are entitled to act against the French state. In the first place, naturally the people of the Caribbean countries where the French during more 300 years have been everywhere at least for a short or a long time.
France is very sensitive about its image and has always tried to censor all actions in direction of Reparation.
The paradox is that the actual Minister of Justice is one of the promoters of the question of the Statute of Slavery and has worked toward it being treated as crime against humanity, and yet she seems to be very reluctant to take the acion we are making against the French state pretending in contradiction, with her former Declaration that the law would be purely ‘memorial’. This state of affairs demonstrates clearly that often, politics and politicians are for the most part opportunist.
A few years ago, I wrote a personal letter to the PM of St Vincent and the Grenadines Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, who is leading the Reparation trail, in the English-speaking Caribbean. I met PM Gonsalves 20 years ago as a lawyer in a common case to explain to him our problem but he seemed not to have the will to know more about our legal actions here in the French Caribbean. Why…is a mystery to me, for whatever reason.
I must say, I was astonished to learn that CARICOM pretends to dismiss any claim of Reparation by France and instead, hired a London law firm for such a task, ignoring blatantly, the French lawyers who are acting in this direction and toward this cause for more than fifteen years. I think that the International opinion has the right to be informed about all that to be able to make its mind about the question of Reparation. In this regard, I am to your disposal to bring you more information and all the material you could need.
France presents this particularity among all the criminal states of Europe to be the only country in the world to have voted a law declaring slavery as a crime against humanity and as such, treat it as a crime. This law, (known as the Taubira law), was iniated by Miss Taubira who was, at the time, the Minister of Justice in the ruling French socialist government.
I must stress that this is the only legal precedent that currently exists around the question of Reparation and more importantly, the legal recognition of slavery as a crime and the implications of this for the French state to be sued for this inhumane historical act. Its particularity and specificity is to give a juridical and judicial basis to legally sue the French state and to support, a trial for Reparation.
The proceedings were introduced in May 2005 and for the past eight years we have been going to court to debate with the French state about the legal rights for Reparation and the damages resulting from the two crimes – the Slave Trade and the systematic Enslavement of Africans.
The Hearing which is a historical and unique case in the history of justice, was held on the 12th November 2013 before the court of Fort de France, in Martinique, which has been the centre in the ‘West Indies’ for the whole slave trade and system of enslavement of first Royal France, then later that of the French Republic, ironically claiming to be the defender of ‘human rights’ in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
The judgement of the court was given on the 12 March 2014. We are still proceeding and will continue to appeal until this is dealt with. During the hearing the position held by the French state was to deny its responsibility in the commission of the two crimes and to oppose the prescription of the action.
Another argument was that the Tuabira law was purely a memorial law without any juridical dimension. This position has been stated by the French Supreme Court in a case concerning a criminal proceedings and the judges who have decided are themselves the object of a criminal proceedings for discrimination. The French national press censored all of these proceedings from the beginning, nor did the local press out in the departments of France, made any mention of the proceedings against the judge. MIR is planning to introduce a new proceedings before the same court with Descendants of deported or enslaved people coming from different countries of the Caraibes (Caribbean) to internationalize the litigation
We are a group of lawyers fighting for the recognition of the judicial and juridical and legal rights of all descendants of the deported Africans who were captured into slavery to claim reparation legally. We are working to force the French state to repair not only in a symbolic way but materially as any criminal has to do when a victim is claiming reparation for his/her injustice.
We are looking at two main points:
1) In first place, the condemnation of the French state to finance an expertise to evaluate the full extent of the damages resulting from the two crimes on the basis of the memory duty which is clearly enounced by the law; and
2) In the second place, an approximate provision of €200 billion Euros on the global prejudice, claiming that the responsibility of the French state is not questionable, neither historically, nor legally as the Law Taubira proclaimed it clearly.
Should you require more information about our actions on this historical event or have any further questions arising out of this email, please do not hesitate to contact me.”