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Trial on Belgian colonial state crime starts

5 biracial women seek compensation from state for being forcefully separated from Congolese mothers by colonial authority

Agnes Szucs   | 14.10.2021
Trial on Belgian colonial state crime starts

BRUSSELS 

The trial of five women suing the Belgian state over crimes against humanity started on Thursday at a Brussels court.

“My clients have been kidnapped, mistreated, ignored, and kicked out from the world. They are living proof of an unacknowledged state crime,” Michele Hirsh, the lawyer representing the five victims of Belgian colonial administration at Congo told at the court, according to the report of public broadcaster RTBF.

Lea Tavares Mujinga, Monique Bintu Bingi, Noelle Verbeken, Simone Ngalula, and Marie-Jose Loshi, born between 1946 and 1950 from a Black mother and a Belgian father in Congo, were forcefully separated from their African families and taken to a Catholic orphanage between the ages of 2 and 4.

Legal documents prove that the fathers did not want to take over custody from the Congolese mothers.

But the Belgian colonial administration ordered to place the children in a Church-run asylum, as part of a systemic strategy stigmatizing interracial relations and preventing so-called “metis” children to claim rights after their Belgian fathers.

Along with 20 mixed-race children and Congolese orphans, the girls were raised in dire conditions by Catholic missionary nuns. The children were abandoned by the Belgian authorities after Congo achieved independence in 1960.

“The Belgian state did not have the courage to go all the way and to name its crime because its responsibility evokes damages and interests,” the lawyer told at the trial, pointing out that the state had already “excused for the history, but it didn’t make amends to the victims.”

Each of the victims claims €50,000 ($58,000) compensation.

In 2019, the country’s then-Prime Minister Charles Michel asked apology for the discrimination against metis people on behalf of the federal government.

He admitted that mixed-race people “were victims under the colonial administration of the Belgian Congo and Rwanda-Urundi until 1962 and following decolonization, as well as the policy of forced kidnappings associated with it.”

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