slavery reparations the time is now

November 27, 2013

Source: www.newafricanmagazine.com

The prevailing scholarly legal opinion categorically shuts the door on claims for justice and slavery reparations by referring to the principle of non-retroactivity and to the allegation, presented as if it were a fact, that transatlantic slavery would have been “legal” at the time.

This is indeed the basic argument that European and US ex-enslaver states always come up with first. In fact, this is really the principal argument that they persistently repeat each time they are confronted with the topic, indicating that this is where the crux of the legal matter lies.

This principle of non-retroactivity, a tenet of international law, has the effect that a state can only be found legally responsible if that state committed an act that was “internationally wrongful” at the time it occurred.

It is the combination of the allegation of international “legality” of slavery at that time with this principle of non-retroactivity that is invoked to categorically block transatlantic slavery reparation claims.

This is not a scientifically pertinent and tenable position, however. When one contends that “slavery” was “legal”, it needs to be asked by whose standards it is supposed to have been legal. The allegation of legality is based solely on the colonial laws that European enslaver states passed after they had been the driving force in transatlantic slavery for more than a century already. However, transatlantic slavery was not legal by the laws of affected Africans, nor was it compliant with international law standards of the time. It was not even “legal” by the laws of European enslaver states, most of which had come to pass, in developments up to the 16th century, legislation abolishing, or at least severely restricting, slavery and outlawing chattel slavery. In their majority, these laws were never abrogated and thus continued to be in force throughout the transatlantic slavery period…

Continuing reading at www.newafricanmagazine.com.