Rape, slavery and land theft

The Ovaherero and Nama are arguing in a New York court that the German government should be held liable for aiding and abetting its colonial settlers, who confiscated land, cattle and other property.

16 May 2018 | Justice

Details are emerging from court papers filed by lawyers representing the Ovaherero and Nama in a New York court battle with the German government, which clearly articulate how the current Bundestag should be held liable for the crime of genocide, land dispossession and the rape and enslavement of indigenous tribes in the then South West Africa.

The Ovaherero and Nama are demanding damages from Germany for the genocide against their forefathers at the turn of the 20th century.

The case is scheduled to be heard in the United States on 31 July and is being brought as an amended class action suit.

The Ovaherero and Nama are demanding a jury trial on all issues and are requesting the New York court to designate the Ovaherero and Nama leaders as the representatives of those affected by the 1904-08 genocide and that the court grant judgment in their favour.

Ovaherero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro as the representative of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority and Chief Johannes Isaack, the chairman of the Nama Traditional Authorities Association, the Association of the Ovaherero Genocide in the USA Inc. and Barnabas Veraa Katuuo individually and as an officer of the American-based association, on behalf of itself and all other Ovaherero and Nama indigenous peoples, are the plaintiffs.

A trial by jury is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact, which then directs the actions of a judge.

The plaintiffs are demanding damages for the horrific genocide and unlawful dispossession of property, in violation of international law, by German colonial authorities during 1885 to 1909 in the former South West Africa.

They want Germany to be restrained from continuing to exclude them from participating in discussions and negotiations regarding the genocide and reparations talks.

“The exclusion is committed in violation of our rights under international law, which includes the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous People to self-determination and the right to participate and speak for ourselves regarding all matters relating to the losses we have suffered,” they argued.

“Germany's extermination order against the Ovaherero and Nama was the first genocide of the 20th century.”

The genocide policies and practices against the Ovaherero and Nama, including the use of mass exterminations, concentration camps and the mistreatment of the targeted population as a “sub-human” group, was a precursor to Germany's later efforts to exterminate European Jews in World War II.

Architects and key participants in Adolf Hitler's so-called 'Final Solution' learned their barbaric practices during the period of the Ovaherero and Nama genocide, it is being argued.

The Nama and Ovaherero further want the American court to certify the lawsuit as a class action.

The prerequisites to a class action is that one or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all, only if the class is so numerous that adding of all members to the lawsuit is impracticable.

The Namibian indigenous tribes want the US court to adjudge and decree that Germany's conduct was in violation of international law, federal statutory common law and the laws of the state of New York.

“These violations include, but are not limited to the mass killings intended to exterminate the Ovaherero and Nama, the systematic rape and abuse of Ovaherero and Nama women, taking and expropriating land, cattle and other property without compensation, are in furtherance of Germany's genocide policies,” the Ovaherero and Nama maintained.

It also included the herding of survivors into concentration camps, the exploitation of the surviving Ovaherero and Nama as forced or slave labour and the use of corpses and skulls for pseudo-scientific experimentation and public display, which constitutes genocide under international law.

The plaintiffs further argued that Germany, as governmental authority during the colonial period, was liable for aiding and abetting colonial settlers and residents in the confiscation of land, cattle and other property from the Ovaherero and Nama, in violation of international law, the systematic rape of women by German civilian and military personnel and their unlawful use as forced or slave labour.

They want the American court to award damages for all common and state law violations, including the unjust enrichment.

They want the court to direct that Germany conducts an accounting of the value of land, personal property, livestock, concessions, taxation and customary rights, human labour, body parts and other property rights taken away from the Ovaherero and Nama.

The plaintiffs want an order that a constructive trust be established with regard to the value of the above-mentioned.

They want the court to award an order in their favour for punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish Germany for its flagrant and outrageous violation of international law and to deter such future conduct.


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