‘Crime against humanity’: Dutch Prime Minister apologises for 250 years of slavery

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    Nat Quinn
    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday, 19 December officially apologised for his country’s 250-year involvement in slavery. Rutte referred to slavery as a “crime against humanity.”
    According to AFP, Rutte’s apology comes nearly 150 years after slavery ended in the Netherlands’ overseas colonies, which included Suriname, islands like Curacao and Aruba in the Caribbean, and Indonesia in the east and South Africa.
    “Today on behalf of the Dutch government, I apologise for the past actions of the Dutch state.
    “The Dutch State of the Netherlands… bears responsibility for the great suffering inflicted on enslaved people and their descendants,” said Rutte, speaking from the Dutch National Archives.
    Rutte repeated parts of the speech in English, Papiamento and Sranan Tongo, which are the languages spoken in the Caribbean and Suriname.
    “We, living in the here and now, can only recognise and condemn slavery in the clearest terms as a crime against humanity,” he added.
    The apology comes after a panel of experts found that Dutch participation in slavery was a crime against humanity and recommended an apology and reparations in 2021. The panel was established in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in the United States in 2020.
    Rutte ruled out reparations last week at a press conference, however, the Dutch government is establishing a €200m (R3.68 billion) educational fund, according to Reuters.
    The Dutch Golden Age in the 16th and 17th Centuries was mostly funded by shipping approximately 600 000 Africans to South America and the Caribbean as part of the slave trade.
    Individual cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht formally apologised for slavery before Rutte’s announcement, placing pressure on the Prime Minister who first said slavery was too far back for an apology before changing his tune.
    Dutch ministers travelled to seven former colonies in South America and the Caribbean for Monday’s announcement. However, there is some controversy with some groups and countries unwilling to accept the “rushed” apology.
    Last week, Silveria Jacobs, the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten said she would not accept the apology without a discussion. Aruba’s Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes was the first leader to accept the apology.
    “There is not one right time for everyone, not one right word for everyone, not one right place for everyone,” said Rutte in his speech.
    Slavery was officially abolished in Suriname and other Dutch territories on 1 July 1863 but it only really came to an end in 1873 after a 10-year transition period, per AFP.
    Slavery commemoration groups have pointed to the 150th anniversary of that date in 2023 as their preferred day for the apology instead of the arbitrary date of 19 December 2022.
    Descendants of Dutch slavery celebrate “Keti Koti” (Breaking the Chains) in Suriname on 1 July annually. Some groups said the apology should come from King Wilem-Alexander there on the day, according to Reuters.
    Additional reporting by AFP.


    ‘Crime against humanity’: Dutch Prime Minister apologises for 250 years of slavery (thesouthafrican.com)

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