In a case that started on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, three organizations sought restitution for slavery, but their plea was denied by France’s highest court.
According to the court’s ruling on Wednesday, no one presented proof demonstrating that they had “suffered individually” any harm as a result of the crimes that their ancestors had been exposed to.
France had a substantial slave trade prior to the abolition of slavery there in 1848, transporting more than 1 million Africans to colonies in the Americas.
In 2005, the International Movement for Reparations and two other organizations began their efforts to get reparations.
The European Court of Human Rights preserved their efforts by allowing their claims to be admitted despite French courts consistently rejecting their plea.
Patrice Spinosi, the attorney pursuing the reparations claim, referred to the court’s ruling as “a new missed opportunity” in a statement sent through email.
But the conflict goes on. Spinosi predicted that the organizations will reapply to the European Court of Human Rights.
In the Caribbean, where an estimated 5 million slaves were transported by colonial powers like Britain and France and made to toil inhumanely in sugar plantations and other areas, the topic of reparations is hotly contested.
An appeals court in Martinique, a department of France that is an overseas territory, rejected the groups’ request in 2022, stating that there is a statute of limitations for those crimes and that French law already permits the implementation of specific measures intended to “bring a memorial contribution to the recognition of slavery and the slave trade” and that it is not the responsibility of the judiciary to determine whether those measures are sufficient.