For Victims of a Little-Known Genocide, a Long Journey to Justice


A case brought by indigenous Ovaherero and Nama and descendants of the estimated 100,000 people who were systematically killed by colonizing Germans between 1904 and 1908 in what is now Namibia was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain for lack of jurisdiction. Attorney Ken McCallion appealed immediately, confident that the Second Circuit will give his clients a reversal.

Several experts contacted about the case said it is important for German society and government to do right by the Ovaherero and Nama, particularly given how the West has grappled for decades with fallout from the Holocaust. The latest version of lead plaintiff Veraa Katuuo’s complaint calls Germany’s annihilation efforts in southwest Africa a “precursor” to the events of World War II less than four decades later.

ICTJ’s Ruben Carranza suggested a multipronged effort for reparations. “There is no ‘best way,’” Carranza said. “Rather, there is the possibility of enlisting domestic (in this case, German) support from political leaders and German citizens in order to put pressure on a more justice-oriented German government to legislate reparations.” He also highlighted that the most important character of reparations is the recognition of responsibility from the state or group making reparation.

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Courthouse News Service