Two Namibian tribes filed a lawsuit for compensation against Germany in a United States, but this was dismissed. The Namibian tribes want compensation for the massive loss they suffered due to German colonization, which resulted in a horrifying genocide and property seizures.
The case was dismissed using the argument that sovereign immunity protected Germany from such liability. If Germany is liable it means that it has to pay compensation to the Herero and Nama tribes.
This matter is arising out of the fact of the presence of victims' bones sold by the wife of a German anthropologist to the American Museum of Natural History. Because of this, the tribal plaintiffs are arguing that immunity was overridden since the property taken violated international law, and had a "direct effect" on United States commerce.
Is this a case of deliberate blindness by the US judge? Expressing dissatisfaction at the ruling, Herero leader Vekuii Rukoro said that New York federal judge Laura Taylor Swain had made "fundamental errors" in dismissing the case. The tenacity is high, such that Rukoro said that they would appeal the matter with "immediate effect."
"We are determined to see to it that this decision is reversed on appeal and that our claims for reparations shall proceed," Rukoro said at a news conference. "It is a merely a temporary setback in our journey and in no way the end of the struggle for us."
For Germany, they seem unfazed. They expected the judge to act in the manner she did. It was predictable. Germany's legal representative Ruprecht Polenz, a jurist, veteran Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician said that the matter is not a legal one, but a moral and political one. So to win such a matter in a court of law is well, impossible, according to him. He said that the New York ruling could have a "clarifying effect."
To him, the goal is to work out something in order to provide substantial aid to "heal the still existing wounds."
Germany committed the most atrocious crimes against humanity on the Herero and Nama people when it colonized Namibia. Up to now, Germany has still not yet offered a public, formal apology for its horrific acts in Namibia. A whole genocide, and Germany still does not want to accept the moral responsibility.
The message which this ruling sends is that Germany is not responsible for the very genocide it committed. The ruling is an affirmation that Western countries are not yet ready to accept their role in destroying the lives of people through evil colonial misdeeds.
A United Nations report in 1985 described the German colonial acts in Namibia as genocide. This report made Germany to make an acknowledgement of "moral responsibility." Demands for stolen artifacts and demands for reparations are treated with nonchalance by Germany.
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