Norway asked to pay up for slave-owning past

A commission set up by countries in the Caribbean announced on Tuesday that it planned to sue Norway for its involvement in plantation slavery from the 17th to the 19th century.

Norway asked to pay up for slave-owning past
The Lord God of Saboath Church, a Danish Lutheran church consecrated in Christiansted, St.Croix, on 27 May 1753 when the island was run by Denmark-Norway - Source: Lord God of Sabaoth Lutheran Church
Norway, as part of a united kingdom with Denmark, established colonies on the islands of St Thomas, St John and St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. In 1754, no fewer than 14,000 of the islands' 16,000 people were slaves. 
"For over 400 years Africans were classified in law as non-human, chattel, property and real estate," Sir Hilary Beckles, the historian who leads the Caribbean Community Reparations Commission, said in a statement.  "This history has inflicted massive psychological damage upon African descendants. Only a reparatory dialogue can begin the process of healing and repair."
The commission on Tuesday officially expanded the list of countries it was targeting from Britain, France and the Netherlands to include Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Beckles said that the group was also researching possible claims against Switzerland and Russia. 

The commission has hired Leigh Day, the British law firm which fought successfully for compensation for Kenyans tortured by the British colonial government during the 1960s Mau Mau rebellion. 
Richard Stein, one of the firm's lawyers, said on Tuesday that if the firm could not reach an out-of-court settlement, it would take the fight to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations' highest judicial organ. 
Denmark and Norway took control of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix in 1672, 1718 and 1733 respectively, with Norway losing its stake with the dissolution of the joint kingdom with Denmark  in 1814 and Denmark selling the islands to the US for $25m in 1917. 
In November, Mark Simmonds, Britain's minister for the Caribbean, expressed doubt about the claims. 
"Do I think that we are in a position where we can financially offer compensation for an event two, three, four hundred years ago? No, I don't," he told the Jamaica Observer.
St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who next year takes over the presidency of the Caribbean Community has pledged to pursue reparations, calling the struggle the "fundamental, defining matter of our age."

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.