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Reparations law suit

Slave descendants file suit
From correspondents in New York
DESCENDANTS of slaves filed a $US1 billion ($1.35 billion) lawsuit against British insurer Lloyd's of London and American tobacco giant RJ Reynolds today, accusing them of profiting by committing genocide against their ancestors.

Lawyers for eight plaintiffs said the complaint - unlike past lawsuits seeking reparations for slavery -- was the first to use DNA to link the plaintiffs to Africans who suffered atrocities during the slave trade.

The suit filed in US federal court in Manhattan accuses the corporations of "aiding and abetting the commission of genocide" by allegedly financing and insuring the ships that delivered slaves to tobacco plantations in the United States.

American banking company FleetBoston Financial Corp was also targeted in the lawsuit.

The defendants "have destroyed our national and ethnic identity", one of the plaintiffs, Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, said today at a news conference announcing the suit.

DNA testing has made a "direct connection" between Farmer-Paellmann to the Mende tribe in Sierra Leone, whose people "were kidnapped, tortured and shipped in chains to the United States", the lawsuit said.

Similar scientific links have been made between the other plaintiffs and tribes in Niger and Gambia, the lawsuit said.

Calls to the three companies named in the lawsuit were not immediately returned.

In January, a federal judge in Chicago threw out a similar lawsuit brought by descendants of slaves.

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