Germany Finally Appears in Case Based on Colonial-Era Genocide in Namibia … And Promptly Moves to Dismiss

Between 1904 and 1907, the German Empire engaged in a campaign of racial extermination in German South West Africa, which today is the Republic of Namibia.  Upwards of100,000 Herero people and 10,000 Nama people were exterminated by the Germans.  It is considered the first genocide of the 20th century.

In early 2017, members of the Herero and Nama filed a class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Germany under the Alien Tort Statute, asserting that German colonial troops were responsible for the deaths, as well as for the taking and expropriation of Herero and Nama lands and other property without compensation, in violation of international law.  The name of the case is Rukoro, et al. v. Federal Republic of Germany.

The plaintiffs made several attempts to serve Germany through The Hague Service Convention, but Germany refused refused to accept service on procedural grounds. The plaintiffs consequently initiated diplomatic service on Germany by asking the U.S. State Department to send the summons and complaint directly to the German Foreign Ministry under diplomatic cover.  After their formal review of the matter, the U.S. State Department completed its service at the end of last year.

After fighting service of the summons and complaint for all of last year, Germany’ has recently accepted service of the complaint and appointed counsel to appear in the case.   On January 12, 2018, Germany filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.  The plaintiffs’ deadline for filing an amended complaint is February 14, 2018.

 

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