Lawyers for indigenous Namibia groups file suit against Germany over 1904 genocide

Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha

Lawyers for two indigenous groups in Namibia have brought a lawsuit against Germany in New York seeking reparations for genocide.

About 100,000 people are thought to have been killed after colonial Germany suppressed an uprising that began in 1904.

But Herero and Nama descendants have been excluded from talks between Namibia and Germany.

And unlike its victims in the Second World War, Germany has refused to pay reparations, saying instead it would pay millions of dollars in development aid.

The suit, made under the Alien Tort Statute and lodged at the US District Court in Manhattan demands damages for various German actions. Between 1885 and 1903, a quarter of Nama and Herero lands were taken by settlers without compensation.

Colonial authorities also ignored the raping of Hereo and Nama women and girls, as well as forced labour.

In 1904, Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha crushed a rebellion by the groups, killing 100,000.

Germany also sent thousands of heads of the dead to Berlin to be included in experiments meant to prove the inferiority of Africans.

The plaintiffs assert Germany’s insistence on paying development aid is unsatisfactory.

Their lawyer, Ken McCallion, told Reuters: “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.

“There can be no negotiations or settlement about them that is made without them.”