October 13, 2003

Hereros to pursue another avenue on reparations

The US$2 billion case between the Herero people and the German government could be settled out of court if Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako has his way. Riruako said he would soon visit Berlin to meet with German government representatives in the hope of ironing out differences and reaching an agreement.

The Herero people under Riruako have filed a US$2 billion legal suit against the German government, against the Deutsche Bank and Woermann Line (now known as SAFmarine) for a further US$2 billion. The cases were first filed in Washington D.C. in 2001.

The Herero people, operating under the Herero Reparation Corporation, have accused the German government and companies of forming a "brutal alliance" to exterminate over 65.000 Hereros between 1904 and 1907. Recently, the Federal Court in Washington D.C. said it did not have jurisdiction over the Herero case and dismissed it. Federal Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly gave the Herero people 30 days to lodge an appeal. According to Riruako, the Herero Reparation Corporation, which is owned by the Chief Hosea Kutako Foundation, had decided not to appeal but to approach the New York Federal Court for a ruling instead. They had instructed their lawyer to pursue the case in New York, where the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) operates. The ATCA allows certain non-US plaintiffs to sue non-US defendants in federal courts.

In court papers, Riruako and others accuse the companies of helping imperial Germany pursue the enslavement and genocidal destruction of the Hereros. Riruako said they opted for the US courts because they felt there would be minimal outside influence compared to a hearing in Germany.

The Hereros had already 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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