Germany is sued in U.S. over early-1900s Namibia slaughter

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By Jonathan Stempel

<span class="articleLocation”>Germany was sued for damages in the United
States on Thursday by descendants of the Herero and Nama people
of Namibia, for what they called a genocide campaign by German
colonial troops in the early 1900s that led to more than 100,000

According to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court
in Manhattan, Germany has excluded the plaintiffs from talks
with Namibia regarding what occurred, and has publicly said any
settlement will not include reparations to victims, even if
compensation is awarded to Namibia itself.

“There is no assurance that any of the proposed foreign aid
by Germany will actually reach or assist the minority indigenous
communities that were directly harmed,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer
Ken McCallion said in an email. “There can be no negotiations or
settlement about them that is made without them.”

The proposed class-action lawsuit seeks unspecified sums for
thousands of descendants of the victims, for the “incalculable
damages” that were caused.

U.S. representatives of the German government did not
immediately respond to requests for comment.

The slaughter took place from roughly 1904 to 1908, when
Namibia was a German colony known as South-West Africa, after
the Herero and Nama groups rebelled against German rule.

According to many published reports, victims were also
subjected to harsh conditions in concentration camps, and some
had their skulls sent to Germany for scientific experiments.

Some historians view what occurred as the 20th century’s
first genocide, and a 1985 United Nations report said the “massacre” of Hereros qualified as a genocide.

Germany has paid victims of the Holocaust, which occurred
during World War Two.

The plaintiffs on Thursday sued under the Alien Tort
Statute, a 1789 U.S. law often invoked in human rights cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the law’s reach in a 2013
decision, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, saying it was
presumed not to cover foreign conduct unless the claims
sufficiently “touch and concern” the United States.

McCallion said Kiobel and later rulings “leave the door
open” for U.S. courts to assert jurisdiction in genocide cases.

The plaintiffs, including some from New York, also brought
federal common law and New York state law claims.

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