Reparations for Historical Human Rights Violations: The International and Historical Dimensions of the Alien Torts Claims Act Genocide Case of the Herero of Namibia

39 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2008 Last revised: 6 Mar 2014

Jeremy Sarkin

University of South Africa

Carly K. Fowler

The Fletcher School

Date Written: October 8, 2008

Abstract

Between 1904 and 1908 German colonialists in German South West Africa (GSWA, known today as Namibia) committed genocide and other international crimes against two indigenous groups, the Herero and the Nama. From the late 1990s the Herero have sought reparations from the German government and several German corporations for what occurred more than a hundred years ago. This article examines and contextualizes the issues concerning reparations for historical human rights claims. It describes and analyzes the events in GSWA at the time. It further explores whether international humanitarian law and international human rights law today permits reparation to be obtained. The article therefore examines the origins of international criminal law, as well as international human rights and humanitarian law, to determine whether what occurred then were violations of the law already in force. Finally, the article examines and evaluates the Herero reparations cases as well as the potential impact of the cases on the wider reparations movement that sees an increasing number of claims for events that occurred during colonial times.

Keywords: international humanitarian law, international human rights law, reparation, international criminal law, Alien Torts Claims Act, Namibia, USA, Germany, International law, comparative law

JEL Classification: K14, K33, N40, N47

Suggested Citation

Sarkin, Jeremy and Fowler, Carly K., Reparations for Historical Human Rights Violations: The International and Historical Dimensions of the Alien Torts Claims Act Genocide Case of the Herero of Namibia (October 8, 2008). Human Rights Review, Vol. 9, 2008; Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1280992

Jeremy Sarkin (Contact Author)

University of South Africa ( email )

P.O. Box 392
UNISA
Pretoria, Gauteng 0003
South Africa

Carly K. Fowler

The Fletcher School ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

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