FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, (in Haiti), firstname.lastname@example.org, +509-3701-9878
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, email@example.com, +1-541-263-0029
Human Rights Groups Tell French President François Hollande: Haiti Needs Justice, Not Charity
Call French debt relief offer a “pittance” compared to what France owes Haiti
(Port-au-Prince and Boston, May 12, 2015)— Human rights lawyers called on French President François Hollande to establish a plan to pay the more than $21 billion in restitution France owes Haiti as a result of its forcibly extracting an “Independence Debt” from Haiti in 1825. They dismissed President Hollande’s offer to reduce Haiti’s modern debt to France as inconsequential compared to what France really owes.
“If President Hollande took justice seriously, he would fulfill France’s international law obligation to repay the Independence Debt,” said Mario Joseph, the Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a human rights law firm based in Port-au-Prince. “France stole that money from Haiti at gunpoint and with the threat of reinstituting slavery, and must pay it back.”
In 1825, Haiti agreed to pay France 150 million gold francs, plus interest, in return for recognition and the satisfaction of French citizens’ claims for property lost as a result of Haiti’s 1804 independence. The “property” included the emancipated slaves. Haiti gave in to French demands for the debt only after France stationed warships off its coast and threatened to invade and reinstitute slavery. Although France still recognized slavery at the time, it had signed treaties prohibiting slavery in places where it had been abolished. The Independence Debt was not paid off until 1947, and in the meantime crippled Haiti’s development by forcing the country to allocate available resources to the debt, rather than to investments like infrastructure or education. In 2003, the Debt, and interest, was calculated to equal more than $21 billion.
“France is offering a pittance in charity,” said Brian Concannon Jr., Executive Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, “when justice requires it to provide restitution—the kind of money that could transform Haiti’s poverty.”
For more legal analysis and commentary on France’s duty to pay restitution to Haiti, see Restitution of Haiti’s Independence Debt from France.