Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday officially apologised for 250 years of the Netherlands’ involvement in slavery, calling it a “crime against humanity”.
The apology comes almost 150 years after the end of slavery in the European country’s overseas colonies, which included Suriname in South America, Indonesia in the east and Caribbean islands such as Curacao and Aruba.
In the first of the former Dutch colonies to react, Aruba’s Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes accepted the apology, but others deplored a lack of concrete action or dialogue.
“Today on behalf of the Dutch government, I apologise for the past actions of the Dutch state,” Rutte said in a speech, repeating the apology in English, Papiamento and Sranan Tongo, languages spoken on the Caribbean islands and in Suriname.
“The Dutch State of the Netherlands… bears responsibility for the great suffering inflicted on enslaved people and their descendants,” Rutte told an audience at the National Archives in The Hague.
“We, living in the here and now, can only recognise and condemn slavery in the clearest terms as a crime against humanity,” he added.
Dutch ministers have travelled to seven former colonies in South America and the Caribbean for the event.
“I don’t see much with regard to action by the Netherlands and it’s a shame,” Iwan Wijngaarde, head of the Federation of Afro-Surinamese, told AFP after the speech.