WINDHOEK - A U.S. judge on Tuesday heard arguments from lawyers representing the German government and indigenous groups from Namibia but deferred a decision on whether to hear a lawsuit demanding reparations for colonial genocide.
A lawyer for Germany urged a U.S. judge to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of state immunity from prosecution.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain presided over the one-hour hearing in a New York federal court but concluded the session by saying that she would not rule immediately. She also did not set a date for a decision.
The lawyer, Jeffrey Harris, argued to U.S. District Judge Swain in Manhattan that the American court did not have jurisdiction over the dispute, citing Germany’s status as a sovereign nation and a legal doctrine that courts should refrain from deciding purely political questions.
“You should abstain from this case under the political question doctrine and let the bilateral negotiations proceed between these two sovereigns,” he said, referring to Germany and Namibia.
Harris argued the court could only award damages if the wealth Germany stole from Namibia was present in the United States.
While the plaintiffs pointed in their lawsuit to several New York properties owned by the German government, Harris said they had failed to link them to Germany’s activities in Namibia.
Kenneth McCallion, who represents the Herero and Nama leaders and organisations, countered that the cash flowing into the German treasury from Namibia “certainly can be traced, in an economic theory as well as in a legal theory, to the purchase of buildings in New York”.
The Herero and Nama groups are seeking reparations for the genocide of their peoples under German colonial rule. Tens of thousands of Hereros and around 10,000 Nama people were killed between 1903 and 1908 after rising up against German colonial rule in South West Africa, which is today Namibia.
The Herero and Nama people brought the class-action lawsuit last year, seeking reparations over the tens of thousands killed in the massacres. The lawsuit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute that allows non-U.S. citizens to make claims in a U.S. federal court for international law violations.
McCallion said Germany’s sovereignty did not shield it from the lawsuit because the genocide was a violation of international law. He also sought to establish the principle of commerce between Germany and the United States, by pointing to a German museum’s 1924 sale of genocide victims’ bones to a U.S. collector who subsequently donated them to the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Harris countered that there was no direct link between funds used to buy the New York properties and colonial activities and said the bones’ purchase did not amount to commerce with the United States.
Germany, which has acknowledged that atrocities occurred, is currently in talks with Namibia on reaching an agreement that would contain an official apology and promise of development aid. – Compiled from AFP & Defence Web
New Era Reporter
2018-08-03 08:59:31 | 2 years ago