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Racism monitor to sue over French bank's Haiti 'plunder'

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-10

A racism watchdog group in France announced Friday it will file a legal suit against a state-owned bank over its role in the slave trade in Haiti even as President François Hollande ruled out reparations to the former Caribbean colony.

One of France’s leading racism watchdogs said on Friday that it will push ahead with plans to sue a state-owned bank over profits from the colonial-era slave trade and reparations extorted from Haiti, on the same day President François Hollande said Paris would not pay reparations for the country's past mistakes.

The France’s Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN) has accused the Caisse des Depots (CDC) bank of collecting damages that France forced Haiti to pay after slavery was abolished in the Caribbean nation, which declared independence from France in 1804 following the world's first successful slave revolt.

“There are many ways France can repair its past errors. It could build a museum dedicated to slavery, it could promote education around the issue, it could pay reparations to Haiti. But Hollande refuses to do anything,” Luis-Georges Tin, CRAN’s president, told FRANCE 24.

'A double crime'

After winning its independence from France, Haiti was forced to pay-off the French government 90 million gold francs to compensate European slave-owners for their financial losses and in exchange for recognition of Haiti's autonomy.

“Haiti was the victim of a double crime. First the crime of slavery, and then this ‘ransom’ for its independence,” Tin said, adding that the reimbursement, which continued until 1946, was equivalent to $90 billion. Other sources have estimated the payment at $21 billion.

Tin said that his organization had received a promise from Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault in October of 2012 that the French government would pursue a policy of reparations with Haiti, but that the promise had since been “slapped”.

Hollande rules out compensations

“This is why we have decided to resolve this political issue in the courts,” Tin said of the impending lawsuit.

Earlier in the day President Hollande said it would be impossible to financially compensate victims for the mistakes of history.

“What has been, has been,” Hollande said in a speech in Paris to mark France's slavery remembrance day. “History cannot be rubbed out. It cannot be subjected to an accounting process that... would be impossible to complete.”

Date created : 2013-05-10

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