Excerpted From: Ira J. Kurzban, Haiti's Legal Claim for Restitution: The Political Context for the Recovery of the Double-Debt, 55 University of Miami Inter-American Law Review 37 (Fall, 2023) (41 Footnotes) (Full Document)

IraJKurzbanOn April 7, 2003, I was representing the Republic of Haiti when its democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, announced he was requesting reparations from the French government because it had imposed economic sanctions on Haiti in 1825. President Aristide's announcement came on the 200th anniversary of the death of Toussaint Louverture. The symbolism was not lost on the Haitian people.

The 1825 sanctions, imposed under threat of war and re-enslavement of the Haitian people, were unlawful and unprecedented. Haitians were forced to compensate their former slave masters for ending their slavery. These sanctions impoverished Haiti for the next two centuries. This unlawful conduct was compounded by scandalous acts of French, and later U.S. banks, which profited by converting France's demand for money into interest-bearing loans for the Haitian people. These bank loans generated significant revenue through hefty interest payments above the “debt” principal and became known in Haiti as the “Double-Debt.”

The political context in which the restitution claims arose can be credited to a continuous effort by Haiti's elite, the U.S. intelligence community, and so-called friends of Haiti--particularly the French and Canadian governments--to undermine the democratically elected government of President Aristide. Those efforts intensified after the president's announcement seeking restitution, but their antecedents were obvious from the beginning of Aristide's second term.

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Today, Haiti still suffers from the impoverishment brought by the Double-Debt and France's unlawful conduct in 1825. However, the legal claim for restitution remains valid and viable.

Ira Kurzban is the founder of Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli & Pratt P.A. in Coral Gables, Florida.