Germany sued after it refuses to pay reparations for 'forgotten' genocide

There is still a lot of anger over the atrocities carried out in Namibia in the early 1900s (a car with 'Germany Must Pay' is parked outside the airport where people awaited the return of tribesmen's skulls stolen during the genocide)
  • Up to 100,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama peoples died in the 1900s genocide  
  • Massacre by German troops is widely considered a precursor to the Holocaust
  • Germany apologized to the Namibian people for the genocide last year
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel said the apology did not mean they'd pay repatriation
  • Now descendants of Herero and Nama people are suing Germany for damages
  • Lawsuit, filed in New York, seeks unspecified sums for 'incalculable damages'

Germany is being sued by descendants of Namibian tribesmen who were ruthlessly slaughtered in a 'forgotten' genocide. 

More than 100,000 Herero and Nama people - the majority of their population - were killed by German colonial troops in the early 1900s in the massacre, considered to be a precursor to the Holocaust.

Germany finally apologized for its other genocide in a landmark admission of historical guilt last year for mass killing which has gone almost unmentioned by the European country in the past.

 Germany is being sued by descendants of Namibian tribesmen who were ruthlessly slaughtered in a 'forgotten' genocide. (pictured, Herero men are chained together by colonial forces in what was then known as German South West Africa during the genocide)

Germany is being sued by descendants of Namibian tribesmen who were ruthlessly slaughtered in a 'forgotten' genocide. (pictured, Herero men are chained together by colonial forces in what was then known as German South West Africa during the genocide)

 More than 100,000 Herero and Nama people - the majority of their population - were killed by German colonial troops in the early 1900s in the massacre, considered to be a precursor to the Holocaust (German troops pose for a photo with tribe members during the genocide)

More than 100,000 Herero and Nama people - the majority of their population - were killed by German colonial troops in the early 1900s in the massacre, considered to be a precursor to the Holocaust (German troops pose for a photo with tribe members during the genocide)

But chancellor Angela Merkel said the apology did not mean that they would pay repatriations for the horrific genocide. 

'On the question of whether there could be reparations or legal consequences, there are none. The apology does not come with any consequences on how we deal with the history and portray it,' Sawsan Chebli, Merkel's spokeswoman, told reporters last year.

Now the descendants of the Herero and Nama people from what is now Namibia, have filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeking damages.

Germany has excluded the plaintiffs from talks with Namibia on the matter, and has publicly said any settlement will not include reparations to victims' families, even if compensation is awarded to Namibia itself.

 Germany finally apologized for its other genocide in a landmark admission of historical guilt last year, But chancellor Angela Merkel said the apology did not mean that they would pay repatriations for the horrific genocide

Germany finally apologized for its other genocide in a landmark admission of historical guilt last year, But chancellor Angela Merkel said the apology did not mean that they would pay repatriations for the horrific genocide

 There is still a lot of anger over the atrocities carried out in Namibia in the early 1900s (a car with 'Germany Must Pay' is parked outside the airport where people awaited the return of tribesmen's skulls stolen during the genocide)

There is still a lot of anger over the atrocities carried out in Namibia in the early 1900s (a car with 'Germany Must Pay' is parked outside the airport where people awaited the return of tribesmen's skulls stolen during the genocide)

'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,' the plaintiffs' lawyer Ken McCallion said in an email.

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

The proposed class-action lawsuit seeks unspecified sums for thousands of descendants of the victims, for the 'incalculable damages' that were caused.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said on Friday that Berlin had acknowledged the genocide and that the two governments had been in talks for just under two years about how to describe and deal with Germany's past criminal actions.

German development aid to Namibia was already at nearly 'world record' levels on a per capita basis but the inter-governmental discussions could lead to potential additional payments, he said.

 Germany barely acknowledged the massacre for years (Chief Alfons Maharero(R), grandson of  former Chief Samuel Herero, who led an uprising of the Herero tribe against German imperial rule between 1904 and 1907, shakes hands with Wolf-Thilo von Trotha(L), descendant of German General von Trotha at the grave of Chief Samuel in  Okahandja, in 2007)

Germany barely acknowledged the massacre for years (Chief Alfons Maharero(R), grandson of former Chief Samuel Herero, who led an uprising of the Herero tribe against German imperial rule between 1904 and 1907, shakes hands with Wolf-Thilo von Trotha(L), descendant of German General von Trotha at the grave of Chief Samuel in Okahandja, in 2007)

Germany had 'good reasons' for not negotiating directly with the Namibian groups involved, Schaefer told a regular government news conference, without elaborating. He said Berlin learned of the lawsuit only through news reports.

The slaughter took place from roughly 1904 to 1908, when Namibia was a German colony known as South-West Africa, after the Herero and Nama groups rebelled against German rule. 

Up to 100,000 Herero people and around 10,000 Nama people died in a systematic extermination by German troops. 

Lothar von Trotha, a brutal imperialist general, was in charge of crushing rebellions in what was then known as German South-West Africa and ordered his troops to wipe out the tribes in what is widely seen as the 20th century's first genocide and a precursor to the Holocaust a few decades later.

The Herero tribe launched an uprising in 1904 and killed more than 100 German civilians after German settlers stole their land, cattle and women.

The Nama joined the revolt a year later.

 Imperialist German General Lothar von Trotha was in charge of crushing rebellions during colonial rule

Imperialist German General Lothar von Trotha was in charge of crushing rebellions during colonial rule

 Dozens of victims were beheaded after their deaths and their skulls were sent to Berlin for 'scientific' research

Dozens of victims were beheaded after their deaths and their skulls were sent to Berlin for 'scientific' research

In response, the Germans were ruthless and drove men, women and children further into the desert, where they were killed by troops or died of starvation.

Many others were put in concentration camps and executed or left to die of disease or malnutrition.

Dozens of victims were beheaded after their deaths and their skulls were sent to Berlin for 'scientific' research. Since 2011 Germany has returned dozens of skulls.

Germany ruled South-West Africa from 1884 to 1915, when it fell under South African rule following World War I. Namibia gained its independence in 1990 following a decades-long guerrilla war.

Germany previously apologized for the genocide in 2004 but that apology was not adopted as state policy.

Some historians view what occurred as the 20th century's first genocide, and a 1985 United Nations report said the 'massacre' of Hereros qualified as a genocide.

 German troops drove the Herero and Nama into the desert or rounded them up in concentration camps

German troops drove the Herero and Nama into the desert or rounded them up in concentration camps

 Germany ruled South-West Africa from 1884 to 1915, when it fell under South African rule following the war

Germany ruled South-West Africa from 1884 to 1915, when it fell under South African rule following the war

Germany has paid victims of the Holocaust, which occurred during World War Two.

The plaintiffs on Thursday sued under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 U.S. law often invoked in human rights cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the law's reach in a 2013 decision, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, saying it was presumed not to cover foreign conduct unless the claims sufficiently 'touch and concern' the United States.

McCallion said Kiobel and later rulings 'leave the door open' for U.S. courts to assert jurisdiction in genocide cases.

The plaintiffs, including some from New York, also brought federal common law and New York state law claims.  

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By Mathias Dillion 01/11/2017 02:21:00