UK Faces Growing Pressure on Slavery Reparations, Says Leading UN Judge


A prominent judge from the international court of justice has issued a noteworthy statement, asserting that the United Kingdom can no longer disregard the mounting demands for reparations linked to transatlantic slavery.

Judge’s Perspective:

Judge Patrick Robinson, notable for his role in the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević, highlighted the shifting international sentiment towards reparations for slavery. He called upon the UK to reconsider its current stance on the matter, emphasizing the significance of acknowledging and addressing the historical wrongs.

Unignorable Atrocity:

Robinson remarked, “They cannot continue to ignore the greatest atrocity, signifying man’s inhumanity to man. They cannot continue to ignore it. Reparations have been paid for other wrongs and obviously far more quickly, far more speedily than reparations for what I consider the greatest atrocity and crime in the history of mankind: transatlantic chattel slavery.”

Inevitable Shift:

The judge expressed his belief that the United Kingdom would ultimately have to yield to the growing movement demanding reparations. He underscored that history and law necessitate such a response.

Exclusive Interview:

Robinson’s comments were offered exclusively to The Guardian in advance of Unesco’s Day for Remembering the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Abolition. The judge is slated to deliver the keynote address on this occasion at the London mayor’s office.

The Brattle Group Report:

Robinson played a pivotal role in drafting the comprehensive Brattle Group Report on Reparations for Transatlantic Chattel Slavery, which was unveiled in June. The report, recognized as the most exhaustive state-to-state analysis on reparations, outlines the owed reparations in connection to 31 nations where transatlantic slavery was practiced.

Staggering Figures:

The study’s estimations indicate trillions of dollars in reparations owed to nations affected by transatlantic slavery. Notably, the report states that the UK alone bears a responsibility to pay a sum of $24tn (£18.8tn) as reparations for transatlantic slavery across 14 countries, with Jamaica accounting for about $9.6tn of that total. The calculations consider the amassed wealth and GDP of the nations involved in enslaving African people.

Enduring Calculations:

Robinson clarified that the high figures are not confined to a short timeframe. Rather, they encompass the entire span of transatlantic chattel slavery, spanning hundreds of years. He emphasized that these calculations start from the inception of this form of slavery, explaining the substantial sums.

Addressing Figures Through Time:

The report’s proposition is for reparation payments to be spread over an extended period of 10 to 25 years, rather than an immediate lump-sum payment.

Potential Legal Actions:

Former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson, present at the report’s launch, indicated that legal action might be pursued to attain reparations for Jamaica and other affected nations. Robinson acknowledged that while court proceedings were possible, a diplomatic settlement was more probable, one that considers relevant legal aspects.

UK’s Stance and Changing Tide:

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s refusal to apologize for the country’s role in the slave trade or commit to reparations was met with disappointment by Robinson. He stressed that the evolving political and global atmosphere is increasingly favorable to reparations. The judge emphasized that transatlantic chattel slavery stands as an unparalleled atrocity in human history due to its brutality, duration, and economic impact.

A Life of Service:

Robinson’s life journey, rooted in his father’s values of equity in education, has led him to this endeavor. He recognizes it as an effort to lessen the deficit he perceives in relation to the service his father rendered. This undertaking aims to serve the descendants of the enslaved, not solely in Jamaica but in all locations where transatlantic chattel slavery occurred.

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