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Reparations claimants leverage German state property in New York to establish District Court’s sovereign jurisdiction

Reparations claimants leverage German state property in New York to establish District Court’s sovereign jurisdiction

Following the German Government’s cold shoulder for the first attempt to use the jurisdiction of a New York District Court to institute reparations, Herero and Nama tribal chiefs, Vekuii Rukoro and Johannes Isaack have now changed their tack.

On Valentine’s Day, the two chiefs together with a US Citizen, one Barnabas Katuuo, through their lawyers, filed an Amended Class Action Complaint in the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York against the Federal Republic of Germany. In their heads of argument, the three plaintiffs, reiterated their demand that representatives of the Ovaherero and Nama peoples of Namibia must be included and be privy to the ongoing negotiations between the Namibian and German governments.

In a 96-page treatise that will make any history professor proud, the plaintiffs claim they represent all Herero and Nama people and their direct descendants, one hundred and ten years later anywhere in the world, to force Germany to settle their demand for reparations for atrocities committed under German colonial rule between 1885 and 1905.

But the weirdest twist in the Amended Class Action suit is revealed in the convoluted legal argument to prove the validity of a New York District Court, by filing extensive lists and descriptions, page after page, of New York properties that belong to the German Government.

These properties, the plaintiffs argue, have been acquired by the wealth the German state generated from its “Takings” of Herero and Nama property in the early years of the twentieth century.

“Defendant’s property-based violations, which it interwove with its crimes against humanity, were also, independent of the genocide, violations of international law,” law firm McCallion & Associates LLP stated on behalf of the plaintiffs.

“A portion of Defendant’s enormous wealth is attributable to, was exchanged for, and can be traced from the property it took from the Ovaherero and Nama peoples in violation of international law. Defendant has invested this wealth worldwide with a particularly large investment in the city and state of New York. Defendant’s investments in New York City constitute property exchanged for the property taken in violation of international law and which were derived from a portion of Defendant’s commingled funds. This property is present in New York City in connection with commercial activities carried on in the United States by Defendant.”

The plaintiffs request that their prayers are reconsidered and that the case must be heard by a jury.

“The filing of this Amended Complaint was authorized by Order of United States District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who has presided over the case since the original Complaint was filed by the Plaintiffs on January 5, 2017. However, Germany refused to appear in the case until shortly before a scheduled court conference on January 25, 2018, despite service of the Complaint on Germany on several occasions, including service on Germany’s Embassy in Washington, D.C. and service through the U.S. State Department and U.S. Embassy in Berlin to the German Foreign Ministry,” said McCallion & Associates in a statement released to the media early Wednesday morning, 14 February 2018.



About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA (hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees in Philosophy and Divinity. Publisher and Editor of the Namibia Economist since February 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 32 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. He is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional journalists. From time to time he helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. Since October 2021, he conducts a weekly talkshow on Radio Energy, again for a lay audience. On 04 September 2022, he was ordained as a Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church of Africa (NHKA). Send comments or enquiries to [email protected]