Belgium’s colonial past soon to be brought to justice
Colonial past in court. The Belgian state, accused of “crimes against humanity” by five Métis women forcibly torn from their mothers at the time of the Belgian Congo, should see its trial take place in the fall of 2021, we learned. Monday with their lawyer, Me Jehosheba Bennett.
The lawyers of the two parties must exchange written arguments “for a year, which will lead to a hearing in September or October 2021” in Brussels, specified Me Bennett to AFP. The complaint for alleged “crimes against humanity” committed in its former colony is a first for the Belgian State, colonial power in Congo (the current DRC) until 1960.
A trial civil
The five complainants are four Belgians and one Frenchwoman, aged between 70 and 74 years old. All born of a union between a black Congolese woman and a white woman, they claim “a provisional sum of 50,000 euros” and the appointment of an expert to assess their moral damage.
They blame the Belgian state for having ordered officials to forcibly tear them from their mothers and place them in Catholic institutions away from society. “These are the kidnappings of children which were organized by the Belgian State and implemented with the help of the Church”, they accuse in a request filed at the end of June before the French-speaking court of first instance in Brussels. 19>
A turning point in Belgian history?
“At school, we were called ‘café au lait’. We weren’t accepted, “recalled one of the complainants, Simone Ngalula, in an interview with AFP in early September. “We were called ‘the children of sin’. A white man couldn’t marry a black woman. The child born of this union was a child of prostitution, ”added Léa Tavares Mujinga, daughter of a Portuguese and a Congolese woman, kidnapped at the age of 2 in the 1940s.
Since the 1990s, several cultural and political events have revived the debate around Belgium’s colonial past. This first historic trial is a major step for the demonstrators. On September 10, a first purely procedural hearing was held without the complainants in order to set the timetable for the exchange of written submissions, as required by civil proceedings.