Belgian-Congolese women in court
Hadrien Dure / picture alliance / dpa / BELGA
Five women have sued the Belgian state for crimes against humanity during colonial times in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The women accuse Belgium of kidnapping them and other children and taking them to Christian orphanages.
"My clients were kidnapped, mistreated, ignored, forced out of the world," said lawyer Michèle Hirsch at a hearing in a Brussels court, as reported by the Belga news agency.
The five women were born in the Congo between 1946 and 1950, under the rule of the Belgian colonial state.
Their mothers were Congolese, their fathers Belgian.
The Belgian colonial power systematically separated children from parents
Like many other children of Belgian-Congolese couples, they were separated from their families and placed under the care of the colonial state, according to Belga. First they were taken to a Christian orphanage, writes the newspaper "Le Soir". When riots broke out in the struggle for independence, the Belgian state left them in the Congo, the report said.
During its rule in the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, the Belgian colonial state systematically separated children of Belgian-Congolese parents, who are called "métis" in French, from their families.
The then Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel officially apologized to the victims in 2019.
However, this apology was not followed by reparations, said lawyer Hirsch.
The women are now demanding compensation from the state and access to state documents pertaining to their cases, lawyer Sophie Colmant said.
The Congo was a Belgian colony until 1960.
Today the territory is divided into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, also known as the Congo-Brazzaville.
anr / dpa