- Five women have sued the Belgian state for crimes against humanity during the colonial era in what is now Congo.
- The women accuse Belgium of kidnapping them and other children and taking them to Christian orphanages.
“My clients have been kidnapped, abused, ignored and forced out of the world,” lawyer Michelle Hirsch said at a court hearing in Brussels.
The five women were born in the Congo between 1946 and 1950 under the rule of the Belgian colonial state. Their mothers were Congolese, and their fathers were Belgian. Like many children of Belgian and Congolese couples, they were separated from their families and placed in the care of the colonial state, according to Belga.
They were first taken to a Christian orphanage, the newspaper “Le Soir” wrote. The report stated that when riots broke out in the struggle for independence, the Belgian state left it in the Congo.
Sorry – but no compensation
During its rule in the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi, the Belgian colonial state systematically separated the children of Belgian and Congolese parents, called in French “métis”, from their families.
Then-Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel formally apologized to the victims in 2019. Attorney Hirsch said this apology was not followed by compensation. Attorney Sophie Colmant said the women are now asking for state compensation and access to state documents related to their cases.
The Congo was a Belgian and French colony until 1960. Today the region is divided into Congo and Congo-Brazzaville.