The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Legacy Establishing a Case for International Reparations

56 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2014

Date Written: October 15, 2013


This Article examines the legal principle of restitution (reparations) as applied to crimes against humanity that were committed as a result of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, as enumerated in international conventions and statutes. The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade’s peculiar attractiveness to Western nation-states that implemented the institution placed a long-term social, mental, and economic hindrance upon the displaced descendants of its victims. This Article also discusses possible legal theories upon which the atrocities of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade may be adjudicated in an international criminal tribunal, thus establishing a case for international reparations, as well as legal obstacles to such cases. The crimes committed throughout the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade warrant a legal remedy in the form of international reparations. The award of reparations serves as an introductory measure toward compensating the descendants of the victims of the slave trade, who continue to suffer under its vestiges and are still deprived of their basic civil liberties and human rights throughout the international community.

Keywords: international law, trans-atlantic slave trade, Black Codes, historical injustices, crimes against humanity, international tribunal, United Nations, human rights, civil rights, Waikapato, New Zealand, Native American, Jews, discrimination, Holocaust, reparations, restitution, atonement, apology

JEL Classification: K33, K14, K42, B15, F33, G15

Suggested Citation

Muhammad, Patricia M., The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Legacy Establishing a Case for International Reparations (October 15, 2013). Columbia Journal of Race and Law, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2013. Available at SSRN:

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