A new lawsuit is being filed in the International Court at Haugue for slave reparations.

Fourteen Caribbean countries that once sustained that slave economy now want Mr. Hague to put his money where his mouth is.

Spurred by a sense of injustice that has lingered for two centuries, the countries plan to compile an inventory of the lasting damage they believe they suffered and then demand an apology and reparations from the former colonial powers of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

When Britain abolished slavery, it compensated those people who suffered a direct loss.

Though Parliament abolished the Atlantic slave trade in 1807, the law took years to put into effect. In 1833, Parliament spent £20 million compensating former slave owners —40 percent of government expenditure that year, according to estimates by Nick Draper of University College, London, who estimates the present-day value at $21 billion.

  • Do International courts require standing, and do all fourteen countries have standing as plaintiffs?

  • Why are Britain, France, or the Netherlands being asked to pay slave reparations as defendants?

  • The case is coming to the International Court at The Hague, so it isn't about the UK courts. Nov 13, 2013 at 17:23

3 Answers 3

  • Do The International Court at Hague require standing?

Yes. At least in this case. For the defendants to have to pay reparations to the countries in question, they will have to show that they suffered damage or injustice. They also have to be states (which they are).

  • Do all fourteen countries have standing as plaintiffs?

That's up to the court to decide.

  • Why are Britain, France, or the Netherlands being asked to pay slave reparations as defendants?

Because they were the main slave traders.

  • 1
    Can a nation suffer damages or injustices if it didn't exist when slavery was legal? Some of those nations weren't nations until after slavery was outlawed.
    – user1873
    Nov 21, 2013 at 14:25
  • 2
    @user1873 This is one of the things the court will have to decide. Nov 21, 2013 at 16:25

ICJ Cases

Cases in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are not quite like court cases in most domestic courts. According to their website, the court can only hear cases between states when the states have agreed to submit their dispute to the court. Both sides must agree to this.

Parties must be states who are current members of the United Nations, parties to the Statute of the Court, or have accepted the ICJ's jurisdiction in some other way.

I didn't see a list of parties involved in the source article, but they are probably members of the United Nations and therefore can participate in an ICJ case.

The Claim and Defendents

To be clear - the Caribbean nations are not asking for reparations for historical harm. They are claiming that the current state of their nation is due to the past harm that was never made whole (source). This removes many difficulties with attempting to sue over past actions (which have been mentioned in other questions and comments).

These three countries are named as defendants because of their historical connection to the slave trade.


Any state which is a member of the United Nations can bring a case before the International Court of Justice. The terms of what kind of cases it can try is wide, essentially being any disputes between countries regarding international law.

Lawsuits are brought for many reasons, international ones as well as local. Possible reasons might include: the plaitiffs think they deserve reparations; they think they can win; they want to generate publicity for a perceived wrongdoing. Any or all of these might apply.

  • I am pretty sure the defendants don't deserve reparations. That aside, how does this answer the question of do these 14 nations have standing (some of which weren't nations at the time). How does this answer the question, why Britian, Netherlands, and France specifically. Why not Ghana, Yoruba, Nigeria?
    – user1873
    Nov 20, 2013 at 21:21
  • Fixed the mistype. Any current member of the UN can bring a case. The ICOJ has no time limit on cases, unlike the ICC. Plaintiffs are not required to disclose their reasons for bringing a lawsuit. If you are asking why they think they deserve reparations, that will have to wait for the case. Nov 20, 2013 at 22:19
  • Perhaps I didn't phrase they question correctly. Even in US courts, anyone can sue for any reason. For example, I could sue because your answer doesn't make the net a better place. The court would probably immediately dismiss my lawsuit because I didn't have standing, and was not directly harmed. I had hoped for more information along the lines of Britain outlawed slavery in 18xx, France in 18xx, [...] Jamaica became a nation in 18xx, Barbuda in 18xx, before/after slavery was outlawed and therefore likely does/doesn't have standing. While Britian did have a colony in ...
    – user1873
    Nov 21, 2013 at 1:51
  • [Nation], the government itself never owned any slaves. The plaintiffs claim that still [blah]. Your answer doesn't seem to add any new information other than those nations are members of the UN.
    – user1873
    Nov 21, 2013 at 1:52
  • 1
    Not going to get into an argument about this. Nov 21, 2013 at 2:18

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