Five mixed-race women born in the Belgian Congo colony in the 1940s, to white settler fathers and black mothers, who were forcibly separated from their parents and placed in a convent, denounced the Belgian State for crimes against humanity.
‘Belgium Should Apologize for Its Colonial Past,’ Kompany Says
The process will take place before the Court of First Instance in Brussels, where the complainants will claim 50,000 euros of compensation, as reported by local outlet RTBF.
They all share the same story of family separation and upbringing in a convent in the Congolese town of Katende in what was a systematic practice carried out by the Belgian authorities and Catholic missions against those who were considered "mulattoes".
"Why did the State come looking for us? We had our mothers, our families," Monique Bitu asked and assured that such an experience left her traumatized.
Between 1885 and 1908, Belgium's King Leopold II, who was the owner of the "Congo Free State" (CFS), allowed businesses for the extraction of natural resources whose collateral effect was the murder of up to 15 billion Congolese.
Until the independence of the CFS in 1960, the Belgian authorities maintained discriminatory and racist practices against black and biracial people.
The complainants' lawyer Christophe Marchand explained that if the events had taken place today, the International Criminal Court would have jurisdiction to judge the lawsuit, but it cannot investigate cases related to the colonial period.
"Ideally, Parliament should address this situation and establish a law that allows victims to request reparation. But, 60 years after independence, the State does nothing. Therefore, we are forced to summon the State to push it to do something," he said.