The Netherlands Prime Minister has offered a formal apology on behalf of the Dutch state for its role in the slave trade during the 17th-19th centuries, saying slavery must be recognised in “the clearest terms” as a crime against humanity.
In a speech at the national archives in The Hague, the Dutch prime minister acknowledged the past “cannot be erased, only faced up to”. But for centuries, he said, the Dutch state had “enabled, encouraged and profited from slavery”.
However, critics have complained of insufficient consultation and say the way it has been pushed through by the Dutch cabinet has a “colonial feel” to it.
Six Suriname foundations sought a court injunction to push the apology back to 1 July 2023, which would mark the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Act, although it took another decade before slavery was actually phased out in the Dutch colonies.
“It should be on the first of July, when they removed our shackles,” says DJ Etienne Wix, whose community radio station mArt was among the groups seeking a different date.
Along with the formal apology, the Dutch government is expected to allocate €200m to awareness projects and pledge to spend €27m on a slavery museum.
More than 600,000 people from Africa and Asia were trafficked by Dutch merchants between the 17th and 19th Centuries.