THE campaign by the Ovaherero and Nama people to compel the Supreme Court of the United States of America to hear their petition to appeal against a judgment delivered in the Second Circuit Court of New York suffered a final blow when their application was denied.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the petition to revive the lawsuit in which the plaintiffs are seeking damages from Germany for atrocities and property seizures committed more than a century ago.
The high court’s denial comes after the Second Circuit Court in September deferred the lawsuit after finding that a proposed class seeking to represent members and descendants of the Ovaherero and Nama people could not overcome Germany’s sovereign immunity because they hadn’t proved that money used by the country to purchase property in New York could be traced back to wealth it accumulated by seizing their property at the start of the previous century.
The lawsuit sought to force Germany to pay reparations for the enslavement and genocide of the people by the former colonialists as well as for the alleged seizure without compensation of “countless” cattle.
But in affirming a New York court’s decision dismissing the suit, the Second Circuit concluded that the proposed class hadn’t made a strong enough case.
“The terrible wrongs elucidated in plaintiffs’ complaint must be addressed through a vehicle other than the U.S. court system,” the Supreme Court’s panel of judges concluded.
The plaintiffs include Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero People, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, Chief and Chairman of the Nama Traditional Authorities Association Johannes Isaack, and Barnabas Veraa Katuuo, an officer of the nonprofit Association of the Ovaherero Genocide in the USA Inc.
The applicants pointed to certain skeletons and skulls shipped from Germany to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and alleged that wealth gained from that period by selling stolen land, livestock, and personal property was deposited directly into the German treasury, which was then used to buy real estate in New York City.
The property in question is used to house Germany’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations, including its diplomats, as well as various institutions and programs engaged in propagating German culture.
In 1985, the United Nations deemed the events that took place in Namibia as genocide.
The lawsuit sought damages under the Alien Tort Statute, under which courts may hear lawsuits filed by non-U.S. citizens for violations of international law, as well as a declaration forcing Germany and Namibia to allow the Ovaherero and Nama people to participate in ongoing negotiation over reparations for the atrocities.