SWITZERLAND AND SLAVERY
Parliamentary move ("interpellation") submitted to the Swiss government (the Federal Council) by MP Josef Lang (Green Socialists, representing the Canton of Zug) on 21st March, 2006
Since 2005 three studies have made possible a first account of Swiss participation in transatlantic slavery: Stettler et al.: Baumwolle, Sklaven und Kredite: die Basler Welthandelsfirma Christoph Burckhardt & Cie. in revolutionärer Zeit, 1789-1815 (Cotton, Slaves and Credits: the Bâle-based Global Trading Company Christoph Burckhardt & Cie. in Revolutionary Times); David et al.: La Suisse et l'esclavage des noirs (Switzerland and Black Slavery), as well as Fässler, Reise in Schwarz-Weiss. Schweizer Ortstermine mit der Sklaverei (Travels in Black and White. Swiss Dates with Slavery). These three publications reveal that the degree of Swiss participation has been much more significant than hitherto assumed.
I therefore submit to the Federal Council the following questions:
1) Is the Federal Council, in view of the extent of Swiss participation in slavery, willing to draw conclusions as to historical research and reparation-measures that will go beyond those contained in its reply to the interpellation submitted by MP Pia Hollenstein on 16th June 2003?
2) In what way has Switzerland played a rôle of conciliation between African states and former colonial powers in the UN Commission on Human Rights?
3) Is Switzerland willing to launch in the UN Human Rights Council a new initiative of conciliation, which will seek for an historical assessment of Europe's colonial and slaving past, to be effected in close cooperation with the descendants of the victims?
4) Is Switzerland willing to promote vis-à-vis France the justified Haitian cause of being restituted the ransom sum of 90 m gold francs, which France forced the former slave colony to pay in 1825?
From the 17th to the 19th century Swiss merchants, military and scientists participated in all activities relevant to slavery: investment in colonial companies, participation in the triangular trade, trade with slave-based commodities, slave trade proper, ownership of slaves, as well as safeguarding slavery by means both military and ideological. According to estimates some 100,000 slaves have been forcibly removed and exploited on New World plantations with Swiss participation. Thus the Swiss share in slavery, in relation to the country's size and population, was of European average. Moreover the three aforementioned publications demonstrate that it was not only private enterprises which participated in slavery, but in a few cases (Berne, Solothurn, Zurich) state-controlled or semi-public institutions as well.
Carrying the names of 41 MPs (Social Democrats, Greens, Independent Socialists, Evangelical People's Party)