How Tort Can Address Historical Injustice. Exploring the Momentum for the Slavery Justice Movement in Dutch Civil Courts

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Recent years have seen an increase in civil litigation of cases of systemic and historical injustice in the Netherlands. Cases regarding war crimes, genocide and other human rights violations in the past and present have reached the Dutch civil courts through tort law. Meanwhile, scholarly disciplines have difficulty understanding the match between tort law and historical injustice cases, distracted by tort’s technicalities and alleged formality. This article provides an interdisciplinary analysis aiming to theoretically clarify the urgency and aspiration put on tort by the slavery justice movement: what potential does tort hold for addressing historical injustice, such as slavery? The article identifies ‘talking points’ between two compatible theories from the sociological and legal disciplines, transformative justice and civil recourse theory, illustrated with cases of systemic and historical injustice. It argues that despite difficulties, tort litigation can be a viable platform to address historical injustices such as colonial slavery. This impact is not dependent on a successful legal outcome: the process can foster agency through process, and participation through inclusion, as core characteristics of remedying historical injustice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-210
Number of pages22
JournalNetherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Tort
  • Historical Injustice
  • Transformative Justice
  • Slavery

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