Namibian Indigenous Groups Sue Germany for Genocide*

Namibian Indigenous Groups Sue Germany for Genocide*

Representatives of the Herero and Nama peoples are suing for reparations and recognition of what many see as the 20th century’s first genocide.

On Thursday, members of the Herero and Nama peoples living in Namibia launched a class-action lawsuit against Germany in a New York court, demanding unspecified reparations for a genocide campaign by German troops after a 1904 uprising by the Indigenous nations which led to over 100, 000 deaths.

The suit alleges that the members of the two Indigenous nations have been intentionally excluded from ongoing talks between the German and Namibian governments over compensation and an official apology for the genocide, which Germany has acknowledged took place.

While in 2013 Germany agreed to pay direct reparations to thousands of victims of the Holocaust, in the current discussions with the Namibian government Germany has explicitly refused similar direct compensation to victims, saying it would instead direct aid money to the government.

“There is no assurance that any of the proposed foreign aid by Germany will actually reach or assist the minority indigenous communities that were directly harmed,” said Ken McCallion, a lawyer for the plaintiff in an email.

“There can be no negotiations or settlement about them that is made without them.”

Germany was the Colonial power in what they then called South West Africa and beginning in 1885 seized almost a quarter of all Herero and Nama lands, without any compensation, some of which continues to be farmed by descendants of German settlers.

The suit also documents how during a four-year period after their 1904 uprising against colonial rule, German authorities placed thousands of Herero and Nama peoples in concentration camps, drove thousands more into the desert to starve, ignored the systemic sexual assault of women and girls, and shipped thousands of decapitated heads to Germany for experimentation to “prove” white racial superiority in what many historians say this was the first genocide of the 20th century.

The lawsuit is being launched under the Alien Tort Statute, used in other human rights cases to assert jurisdiction over actions by foreign governments, though it is still unclear whether the courts will grant jurisdiction in this case.


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