ICJ judge warns UK cannot evade call for slavery reparations forever

ICJ judge warns UK cannot evade call for slavery reparations forever

Judge Patrick Robinson

The UK is “required by history and law” to pay trillions of pounds in reparations for transatlantic chattel slavery, a senior judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has said.

Judge Patrick Robinson, who was president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) from 1998 to 2015, told The Guardian in an exclusive interview that “the global tide is moving” in favour of reparations.

The Jamaican judge, who oversaw the trial of Slobodan Milošević, said he considered transatlantic slavery to be the “greatest atrocity and crime in the history of mankind” and that reparations had been paid “for other wrongs… far more quickly”.

However, he played down the prospect of reparations being achieved through international legal action.

Reports last month indicated that a dozen Caribbean countries are considering asking the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on the issue of reparations for the slave-trade and European colonial violence.

Of this, Judge Robinson said: “It’s possible, but frankly, I think the greater probability is for a settlement on a political diplomatic basis, which takes into account the relevant legal considerations… but I don’t rule out court proceedings.”

In April, prime minister Rishi Sunak refused to apologise for the UK’s role in slavery and colonialism and commit to reparations when challenged in the House of Commons.

“I have the highest regard for the prime minister of the United Kingdom, but I believe the stance that he has taken is regrettable and I very much hope that he will reconsider it,” Judge Robinson said.

“The tide is changing, the political tide, the global tide is moving. The United Kingdom — [including] both principal parties, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party and the other parties, which are just as important — need to take into account that movement is a movement in favour of reparations.

“The transatlantic chattel slavery is the greatest atrocity in the history of humankind without parallel for its brutality, without parallel for its length over 400 years, without parallel for its profitability.”

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