June 6, 2002

German Firms Seek Dismissal of Herero Legal Suit

Two German companies facing a US$2 billion legal suit filed by Hereros in Namibia have asked a United States court to dismiss the case. The Hereros accuse Deutsche Bank and Woermann Line (now known as SAFmarine) and their government of forming a "brutal alliance" to exterminate over 65.000 Hereros between 1904 and 1907.

The lawyer representing the Hereros, Philip Musolino of Musolino and Dessel, told the newspaper The Namibian that the two companies had filed arguments for the dismissal of the case in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. "We are now working on our reply. We will file on the first of July," Musolino said.

The Herero People's Reparations Corporation, which is registered in Washington DC, has also filed a US$2 billion claim against Germany. Musolino said the German government had countered by stating that the US-based lawyers had no jurisdiction to take them to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He said they would soon file papers asking the court to declare whether the Hereros' lawyers had the jurisdiction to fight on behalf of the Hereros in the US court.

Initially, the Hereros filed cases against the German government, Deutsche Bank, Woermann Line (now known as SAFmarine) and Terex Corporation. However, they withdrew their case against Terex after the company claimed in court papers that it was under different management at the time of the atrocities. Musolino and Dessel are acting on behalf of the Herero People's Reparations Corporation.

The Corporation is owned by the Chief Hosea Kutako Foundation which is headed by Herero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako. In the court papers, Riruako and others state that the companies helped imperial Germany to relentlessly pursue the enslavement and genocidal destruction of the Hereros. "The defendants and imperial Germany formed a German commercial enterprise which coldbloodedly employed explicitly-sanctioned extermination, the destruction of tribal culture and social organisation, concentration camps, forced labour, medical experimentation and the exploitation of women and children in order to advance their common financial interests," say papers filed by the lawyers. Riruako said they opted for the US courts because they felt there would be minimal outside influence compared to Germany. The Hereros handed over a formal request to the then President of Germany, Roman Herzog, when he visited Namibia in March 1998, in an effort to be compensated. Herzog responded that the Hereros could not claim any compensation from Germany as international rules on the protection of rebels and the civilian population did not exist at the time of the conflict. (THE NAMIBIAN)


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