Caribbean ambassador proposes establishing assembly to seek redress for transatlantic slavery

A high-level representative said on Wednesday it was crucial to establish a new international special tribunal to seek reparations for transatlantic slavery and its legacies in today’s society. As reported earlier this month, there was growing support among Caribbean and African nations for the creation of such a tribunal to address atrocities dating back to transatlantic slavery. For over four centuries at least 12.5 million Africans were kidnapped, forcibly transported thousands of miles mainly by European ships and merchants and sold into slavery. David Comissiong, the Barbados ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and a well-known reparations advocate, said a tribunal was needed because there was no international court properly equipped to deal with reparations claims of such magnitude and complexity. Comissiong was speaking at the third session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) in Geneva. The PFPAD initially suggested establishing the tribunal last year. He said the tribunal would require a “positive decision” by the United Nations, the main policy-making body of the organization. “Let us resolve to put in the international advocacy work to successfully deliver the creation of this critical institution at the U.N. General Assembly,” he added. “Let us all rally around the forum and make this happen.” At the session, representatives of other nations, such as from Guyana and Venezuela, echoed Comissiong’s call. In a video message at the opening of the PFPAD session on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated that racism was based on centuries of enslavement and colonialism. He said reparations should be part of efforts to tackle it. The idea of paying reparations or making other amends for transatlantic slavery has a long history and remains deeply disputed, but has been gaining momentum worldwide. Even supporters of the tribunal recognize that establishing it will not be easy. Hurdles include obtaining the cooperation of nations that were involved in transatlantic slavery and the legal complexities of finding responsible parties and determining remedies.