Chirac names May 10 slavery memorial day

30th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 30, 2006 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac on Monday declared May 10 as an annual day of commemoration in France for the victims of slavery, and proposed legal action against companies that use forced labour in developing countries.

PARIS, Jan 30, 2006 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac on Monday declared May 10 as an annual day of commemoration in France for the victims of slavery, and proposed legal action against companies that use forced labour in developing countries.

"From this year I would like mainland France to honour the memory of slaves and commemorate the abolition of slavery," the president said in an address to a government-appointed Committee for the Memory of Slavery.

"Slavery fed racism. When people tried to justify the unjustifiable, that was when the first racist theories were elaborated. Racism is a crime of the heart and the spirit ... which is why the memory of slavery remains a living wound for some of our fellow citizens," he said.

The date of May 10 was chosen because it was the day in 2001 that the French legislature approved a law recognising slavery as a crime against humanity.

France's overseas territories, which have a mainly black population, already have annual slavery memorial days.

Chirac also said he would propose a "European and international initiative" to bring companies that knowingly use forced labour to court, "even when the offences are committed abroad".

"We must ensure that when western companies invest in poor or emerging countries they respect basic labour rules such as have been lain out in international law," Chirac said.

Last Friday the president took steps to defuse a bitter row over a law passed a year ago which recognises the "positive role" of France's colonial past.

Chirac asked the nine-member constitutional council to strike down the controversial clause on the grounds that it lay outside the competence of the legislature.

Questions over slavery and France's colonial past have taken on an added sensitivity since the outbreak of rioting in November among mainly black and Arab youths.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article