Court date set in US genocide lawsuit

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Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Windhoek-A court date has been set in a federal lawsuit lodged in a U.S. court against the German government for reparations over the Ovaherero and Nama genocide of 1904-1908.
U.S.-based genocide activist and one of the plaintiffs Veraa Katuuo told New Era on Wednesday the court hearing is set for Thursday, March 16 at 10am.

The trial is set to take place in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan under the Alien Tort Statute, an 1879 law often invoked in human rights cases.

The class-action suit, filed by Ovaherero Chief Vekuii Rukoro, his Nama counterpart David Frederick and Katuuo, seeks reparations from the present German government for genocide carried out by German colonial troops, in what is now Namibia, more than a century ago.

The plaintiffs are also demanding that their representatives be included in ongoing talks between Germany and Namibia, which are aiming for a joint declaration on their common past.

Up to 100 000 Hereros and Namas are believed to have been killed by German Imperial troops in the early 1900s in what was then the German colony of South-West Africa. Successive German governments have refused to accept the atrocities as genocide. The present government only agreed to the description genocide in 2015, reversing its earlier position.

The dialogue between Germany and Namibia includes discussions about an official apology for the genocide. However, Germany’s Ambassador to Namibia, Christian Schlaga, has publicly ruled out paying reparations directly to present members of the Ovaherero and Nama ethnic groups.

Schlaga hinted, though, that Germany would be willing to pay Namibia compensation from which the entire population would benefit.

The Deutsche Welle (DW) newspaper recently quoted the German envoy Ruprecht Polenz as having said that it was right that the German government ruled out direct compensations even before negotiations were concluded.

“The expectations of the negotiations were fraught with such perspectives from the start,” he told DW.

“The fact is that after World War II, Germany only paid personal reparations to individuals who personally suffered in the concentration camps or were forced to do slave labour,” he said.

The paper also quoted the German opposition parliamentarian Niema Movassat of ‘Die Linke’ (The Left) party as to have said the lawsuit was the “consequence” of the German government’s refusal to enter into direct negotiations with the Herero and Nama.

“It is absurd to exclude a certain community from negotiations about a genocide that affected them. It is understandable that the people do not feel taken seriously,” he told DW.

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