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The Herero and Nama peoples demanded compensation for damages over genocide and property seizures by German colonists.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain rejected a lawsuit requiring Germany to pay damages over genocide and property seizures by its colonists, who carried out a racial extermination campaign against the Herero and Nama peoples in the first years of the 20th century in present-day Namibia.
The Manhattan judge said that Germany is immune from claims by descendants of the Herero and Nama peoples, depriving her of jurisdiction over its role in what happened in German South West Africa, a colony of the German Empire from 1884 until 1919.
Herero leader Vekuii Rukoro said Judge Taylor Swain made errors in her analysis and the tribe would make sure the decision was reversed on appeal, adding that "we have directed our lawyers in New York to proceed with immediate effect." The plaintiffs' attorney Kenneth McCallion said he will discuss new options for legal action with his clients.
The Namibian plaintiffs contend that Germany was not shielded by the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because its plunder found its way to Manhattan, which triggered exceptions covering commercial activity and improper "takings." They also alleged that misappropriated funds were used to buy the German consulate building in that city.
In Namibia, during German colonial rule, thousands of Indigenous peoples were slaughtered, left to starve, or killed at concentration camps. They had been previously arrested by the Imperial troops who tried to suppress uprisings that took place between 1904 and 1908 against the colonial regime.
According to historians, about 80 percent of the Herero population and 50 percent of the Nama tribe died as consequence of their imprisonment, that is, some 65,000 Herero and another 10,000 Nama were victims of German Empire repression.
The prisoners' remains, which were found at two German universities, were then taken to Europe for scientific researches aimed at proving the superiority of white Europeans over black Africans.
The economic reparations that Germany could offer would improve the living conditions of the victims' descendants, who still live in extreme poverty.
"The Herero and Nama struggling for reparations explain that an economic compensation could be used to buy lands formerly usurped from them," Africaye, a local media, explained and added that they seek "the restoration of dignity through an economic path that effectively reverses the social position to which the genocide condemned these peoples. "