US court postpones genocide hearing

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Kate Schoenbach

New York, USA-The Ovaherero Genocide Committee and the Nama Technical Committee on Genocide had their first day in a U.S. court this past Thursday, March 16 in the case lodged against the German government for colonial-era genocide committed in Namibia over a century ago.

The committee claims in its legal challenge that Germany has excluded representatives of the Ovaherero and Nama tribes from talks with Namibia regarding the genocide. A pre-trial conference was heard before Judge Laura Taylor Swain on Thursday in New York, with plaintiffs Vekuii Rukoro, the Ovaherero Paramount Chief, and Veraa Katuuo, a founding member of the U.S.-based Association of the Ovaherero Genocide, in attendance.

During the hearing, Judge Swain questioned the plaintiffs’ counsel, Ken McCallion, about Germany’s basis for jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The FSIA is a law that defines the jurisdiction of U.S. courts in cases against other countries. McCallion explained that two exceptions from immunity were the genocide itself, a crime against humanity, and the expropriation of property for a discriminatory purpose.

During the German colonial period the Ovaherero and Nama were robbed of thousands of square miles of their ancestral homeland. Today, as Mr Katuuo points out, “the Ovaherero still live in overcrowded and overgrazed modern-day concentration camps called reserves.”

The German government is yet to file its response and had not yet appointed counsel in the matter. Judge Swain noted that Germany needs to enter an appearance in order to engage in litigation and postponed the case to July 21.

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