Rukoro v. Federal Republic of Germany, No. 19-609 (2d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action on behalf of members and descendants of the Ovaherero and Nama indigenous peoples against the Federal Republic of Germany, seeking damages for the enslavement and genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama peoples in what is now Namibia, as well as for property they alleged Germany expropriated from the land and peoples.
The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Germany is a foreign sovereign; the only path for the exercise of jurisdiction is if a FISA exception applies. FSIA’s takings exception, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), provides that a foreign state is not immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts in cases "in which rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue and that property or any property exchanged for such property is present in the United States in connection with a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or that property or any property exchanged for such property is owned or operated by an agency or instrumentality of the foreign state and that agency or instrumentality is engaged in commercial activity in the United States.” The plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to trace the proceeds from property expropriated more than a century ago to present‐day property owned by Germany in New York.