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Comissiong calls for special body to work out reparations claims

by Sandy Deane
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Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong on Wednesday proposed the creation of a new special international tribunal to quantify and settle reparations claims from the atrocities of the Atlantic slave trade, as he addressed a global body.

Declaring that the global reparations movement was moving full steam ahead, he told the third session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, (PFPAD), an advisory body to the UN Human Rights Council, that the tribunal was critical because there is no international court properly equipped to deal with a reparations claim of the magnitude and complexity for hundreds of years of African enslavement.

“The closest that we have to such an institution is the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but not only is the ICJ inadequate in terms of its design, it also suffers from the fact that many of the former enslaver nations have made reservations to the ICJ treaty – reservations that prohibit the ICJ from adjudicating crimes that they committed during the colonial era,” he said.

Calling for full support for the Permanent Forum to make it happen, Comissiong pointed out that the tribunal would require a positive decision from the United Nations General Assembly.

“Let us resolve to put in the international advocacy work that will be required to successfully deliver the creation of this critical institution at the UN General Assembly,” the reparations advocate said.

Reflecting on the decision of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, officials, and civil society representatives to embark on a campaign for reparative justice in 2013, the ambassador said the last 11 years have been a struggle to build the international reparations movement in the face of “great opposition and contestation” but it has since gained the support of reparations “doers” in Africa, North America, Latin America and in the African diaspora communities of Europe.

“And I am here today to tell you that the CARICOM Reparations Movement is convinced that we – all of us across global Africa who put our hands to the plough – have finally succeeded in establishing a solid and permanent global reparations movement.

“If you did not know it before, then hear it from me now: We have achieved a global reparations movement; it is here to stay; it wields a formidable moral and political power; and it will not be denied,” he declared.

Ambassador Comissiong insisted that reparations for CARICOM countries were not merely about money but more about the development of new relationships that would eradicate patterns of discrimination, exploitation, inequity and domination that have been rooted in centuries of imperialism, colonialism and systemic racial discrimination.

He told the gathering: “Reparations is about much more than money! Rather, it is a revolutionary programme of transformation that is designed to eradicate structures, practices and consequences of anti-Black and anti-indigenous racism, and to create just societies and a just international order.

“Put another way, our CARICOM Reparatory Justice Campaign is designed to address the historical legacies of under-development that are directly linked to the European perpetrated crimes of Native genocide and African enslavement.”

In addition to the establishment of the reparations tribunal, the diplomat and long-time Pan-Africanist made a strong case for the global community to provide strong support for efforts in Haiti to implement a new national unity transitional government that will pave the way for critical elections.

He also urged the forum to preserve and reform the United Nations system and pressed for full support for the Bridgetown Initiative which calls for major reforms to global financing rules to create more resources from which developing
countries can borrow to mitigate and recover from the climate crisis. 

sandydeane@barbadostoday.bb

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