May 21, 2003

Hereros still waiting for court date

The Hereros are still awaiting a final date for their court case in the United States against the German government, Deutsche Bank and Woermann Line (now known as SAFmarine).

Hereros under Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako accuse the two companies and Germany of forming a "brutal alliance" to exterminate over 65 000 Hereros between 1904 and 1907. They have filed a US$2 billion legal suit against the two companies and a US$2 billion claim against the German government. Riruako told The Namibian that they had initially hoped that the hearing would have started by the end of March or early April.

The two companies filed arguments for the dismissal of the case in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Phillip Musolino, lawyer for the Herero People's Reparations Corporation, which is registered in Washington DC, replied. The German government countered by claiming that US-based lawyers had no jurisdiction to take them to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, but eventually dropped this claim.

Originally, the Hereros also filed a case against Terex Corporation, but backed off after the company claimed in court papers that it had been under different management at the time of the atrocities. Musolino and Dessel are acting on behalf of the Herero People's Reparations Corporation. The Corporation is owned by the Chief Hosea Kutako Foundation, headed by Riruako.

In the court papers, Riruako and others accused the companies of helping imperial Germany in its relentless pursuit of the enslavement and genocidal destruction of the Hereros. "The defendants and imperial Germany formed a German commercial enterprise which cold-bloodedly 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 the papers filed by the lawyers. Riruako said they opted for the US courts because they felt there would be minimal outside influence compared to if they took action in Germany.

The Hereros handed over a formal request for compensation to then President of Germany, Roman Herzog, when he visited Namibia in March 1998. Herzog responded that the Hereros could not claim compensation from Germany as international rules on the protection of rebels and the civilian population did not exist at the time of the conflict. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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