Current Developments

Robert Koch, research and experiment in the colonial space

Or: Subjugating the non-European under the old international law

German colonialism is an inherent part of both German and global history, yet largely neglected and transcended into the vast depths of oblivion. As Jutta Blume wrote recently in an article for the German newspaper der Freitag, ‘the emergence of ‘tropical medicine’ (Tropenmedizin) is inextricably linked to the height of colonialism at the end of the 19th century’. Considering the current pandemic and the daily briefings, which the Robert-Koch-Institute provided …

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IL in Pandemic TimesSymposium

Racial violence and COVID-19

A brief reflection on the coloniality of power in pandemic times

Since COVID-19 emerged, Western discourse vivifies the exclusion and objectification of racial groups regarding both a responsible subject and potential solutions to the pandemic. These solutions articulate political interests instead of addressing the common interests and needs of the entire international population. Western discourse during the pandemic particularly affects the African continent and phenotypically Asian people. It is expression of the still prevailing coloniality of the international structure of power …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

The role of museums

When we talk about addressing the colonial past and decolonization, museums should play an active role and make their numerous voices heard. In order to play a relevant role in this context, a museum must address all issues that affect society. It must offer a space to exchange and debate ideas, for a community to present its diverse talents, and celebrate its history and culture. It has to involve today’s …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

German colonialism, reparations and international law

Reparations have become an increasingly important entry point to the conversation about the unfinished business of decolonization. Even though reparations have an established role in transitional justice and human rights, very little attention has been paid to the transition from colonialism or the legacies of colonial human rights abuses. While Namibia’s political independence was an important first step, the decolonization process did not confront two pivotal dimensions of colonial legacies. …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Participation rights of indigenous peoples

Over the past three decades, indigenous peoples’rights have become an important component of international law and policy. This is a result of a movement driven by indigenous peoples, civil society and other stakeholders. One of its main achievements is the United Nations General Assembly’s 2007 adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. By 2010, the vast majority of UN member states supported the declaration, and none …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

From ideological fixity to moral argument

Today, international law – and international human rights law in particular – provides the dominant frame, often augmented by negotiations, for responding to acts of genocide. While this frame is necessary, it may not be sufficient to address the deeper emotional and psychological scars associated with the 1904–1908 genocide in erstwhile German South West Africa. This is because the colonial project’s ideological fixity deeply implicates aspects of international law. Moreover, …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Racist repercussions and transgenerational exclusion

Legal means to deal with Germany’s colonial legacy

The German and Namibian governments seem to be about to finalize their negotiations on (the costs of) reconciliation. Several civil society actors and Ovaherero and Nama representatives criticize the procedure and want to be included in the negotiations – inter alia in a US lawsuit against Germany. The German government, however, denies that a genocide (in legal terms) occurred, referring to the principle of intertemporality in international law. What legal …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

The law as a (limited) means to address colonial injustice

Calls for reparations for historic injustices dominate current Namibian discourse. Such calls are directed to both the German and Namibian governments. The German government is called upon to take full responsibility for the heinous crimes committed against the Ovaherero and Nama peoples during the 1904–1908 genocide. After all, the impugned genocidal acts were perpetrated under the infamous orders of General Lothar von Trotha, who acted in the name of the …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

The genocide against the Ovaherero and Nama peoples

The German colonization of what became German South West Africa commenced in 1884 and ended with German forces’ surrender to the Union of South Africa in July 1915. The genocidal atrocities committed by German colonial troops from 1904–1908, sanctioned by General Lothar von Trotha’s 1904 and 1905 orders to exterminate the Ovaherero and Nama, significantly changed the course of history and socio-economic status of the people who lived in Namibia …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Decolonizing intertemporal international law

As with many legal disputes concerning Europe’s bloody colonial past, conversations about the Ovaherero and Nama’s right to reparations from Germany often reach a dead end at the mention of intertemporal international law. Accordingly, one should judge the past by the legal standards of its time, not by our modern perceptions. As the rules of the past were mostly nasty and brutish, the argument goes, the victims of colonial injustice …

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