According to the principle of intertemporality, a legal question has to be assessed on the basis of the laws in effect at the relevant time. This is aimed at ensuring legal certainty and is thus in many cases desirable. However, the application of this principle can sometimes mean, for example, that crimes committed during the colonization of Africa and South America are assessed not in line with today's legal standards but rather in accordance with the racist and discriminating laws of the colonizing powers of the time.
German courts recognize exceptions to the application of this principle in some constellations, specifically to avoid the application of certain Nazi-era laws or the laws of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). In other areas, including when it comes to the legal classification of colonial crimes, historical injustices continue to be concealed or legitimized through the application of the principle of intertemporality.
In colonial times, Germans robbed people in the colonies of their land, their cultural artefacts and their lives. And they stole their family members – in the form of bones and other body parts. They brought them to Europe for racist research purposes. Even today tens of thousands of so-called Ancestors/Human Remains are stored or displayed in German museum archives, universities and private collections.
In the early 20th century, today’s Namibia was a German colony. The Namibian population was massively and systematically discriminated against. Oppression, violence and land grabbing were widespread. ECCHR is working to address colonial crimes in Namibia and Germany’s colonial past.
Cooperation Academy of Fine Arts
The development of international law is closely interwoven with European colonialization. Colonial violence was frequently covered up and injustice developed into a legal system. With the “Koloniales Erbe/Colonial Repercussions” event series, ECCHR examined the structures of colonial power relations, which continue to impact on science, art and society today.
Research & Academia
The anthology Dekoloniale Rechtskritik und Rechtspraxis, which will be published by Nomos Verlag in August 2020, is the first volume to collect fundamental texts on decolonial legal theory. Interdisciplinary theoretical approaches by scholars such as Antony Anghie, Martti Koskenniemi, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui and Makau Mutua are complied in German for the first time.
Research & Academia
The criminal investigation into Lumumba’s assassination is part of a broader context of structural impunity for the crimes committed by European colonial powers during decolonization. While the long-term effects of colonization persist, direct accountability is rarely possible.