Germany defends in New York

30 January 2018 | Justice

The Nama and OvaHerero genocide case has been postponed to 3 May this year following Germany's request for a deferment to prepare itself.

After initially refusing to meet the Nama and OvaHerero genocide descendants in court claiming sovereignty, Germany finally made its first court appearance in the New York federal court on Thursday.

Jeffrey Harris appeared for Germany in the civil claim for damages for the mass murder of more than 110 000 native Namibians.

The Nama and OvaHerero people are represented by Kenneth McCallion.

One of the descendants who attended the court proceedings, Umbi Karuaihe-Upi, told Namibian Sun that the courtroom was packed to capacity with descendants from the diaspora as well as from Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.

She described Judge Laura Swain as succinct, clear and to the point.

“She explained that the legal process has to be followed to address the motion of Germany and that needs to be done by 14 February. Depending on her assessment of the motion and possible amendments of the plea the next hearing is scheduled to 3 May,” she said.

McCallion recently said the Namibian case has merit because there are similarities to the Holocaust case against Germany, since both cases involve genocide and unlawful taking of property in violation of international law.

According to him there ought to be no reason for Germany to not settle the claims with the Nama and OvaHerero descendants.

“Certainly racial and ethnic differences between the victims of genocide, Holocaust victims being European and white, and the OvaHerero and Nama victims being African and black, should not make a difference to Germany's willingness to come to terms with its past genocidal policies and practices,” he said.

Friday's court hearing was followed by a public lecture and panel discussion on the genocide which took place at the Schomburg Centre for Research for Black Culture, New York Public Library.

In the meanwhile, Joseph Kauandenge, presidential spokesperson of Nudo, issued a statement welcoming the trial.

Kauandenge said it is “a partial victory to the descendants of these two communities that our government has now become a spectator rather than an active participant in the on-going court case.

“Hence we urge our government to stop their flimsy excuse of so-called negotiations with Germany whether they want to or not, because the government cannot in good faith continue to negotiate with Germany on behalf of the two communities, while the said court case is still going on in New York.”

He accused government of arrogance and said it has now become a bystander in the matter adding that the party “applauds the USA court for their resolve and tenacity in dealing with this issue and we hope that by 3 May 2018, the said court will reach a decision in favour of the descendants once and for all and that Germany will be held accountable for their past deeds”.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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