January 22, 2003

NAMIBIA: Herero claims could go to court in US in March or April

The Hereros are likely to face the German government and two firms in a legal showdown involving a US$4 billion (about N$35,2 billion) claim within the next two months.

Herero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako told the newspaper The Namibian on January 21 that they were still waiting for final dates for the two cases but said it was likely to be in late March or early April.

The Herero People's Reparations Corporation, which is registered in Washington, DC, has also filed a US$2 billion claim against Germany with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and another against German companies Deutsche Bank and Woermann Line (now known as SAFmarine). Chief Riruako said there was a possibility the case could be moved to New York from Washington.

The Hereros accuse Germany and two companies of forming a "brutal alliance" to exterminate over 65 000 Hereros between 1904 and 1907. The companies earlier asked the court to dismiss the case while the German government has countered by stating that the US-based lawyers Musolino and Dessel had no jurisdiction to take them to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Initially, the Hereros filed cases against the German government, Deutsche Bank, Woermann Line (now known as SAFmarine) and Terex Corporation. However, they withdrew their case against Terex after the company claimed in court papers that it was under different management at the time of the atrocities.

Musolino and Dessel are acting on behalf of the Herero People's Reparations Corporation, which is owned by the Chief Hosea Kutako Foundation headed by Chief Riruako. In the court papers, Riruako and others charge that the companies helped imperial Germany to relentlessly pursue the enslavement and genocidal destruction of the Hereros. "The defendants and imperial Germany formed a German commercial enterprise which coldbloodedly employed explicitly-sanctioned extermination, the destruction of tribal culture and social organisation, concentration camps, forced labour, medical experimentation and the exploitation of women and children in order to advance their common financial interests," say papers filed by the lawyers. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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