South African Apartheid Victims to Sue Multinationals

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South Africa: Apartheid Victims to Sue Multinationals

allAfrica.com
John Allen
Cape Town
13 May 2008


Victims of apartheid who are suing 23 leading  multinational corporations in American courts on the grounds that the companies collaborated with the policy have been given clearance to take their case forward.

The United States Supreme Court issued an order in Washington, DC, on Monday affirming a decision by a lower court, the effect of which is to allow the case to go ahead. The Supreme Court was unable to hear the case because four of its nine members had to recuse themselves, leaving the court unable to form a quorum.

The Khulumani Support Group, an organisation of apartheid victims and survivors, welcomed the court order as a "significant development" in a statement issued in Cape Town on Tuesday.  It said the decision meant "the critical arguments that corporations should be held accountable for aiding and abetting the perpetration of gross human rights violations, can now be interrogated. "

However, New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse reported on Tuesday that it was still "highly uncertain" whether the case would ever go to trial.  She wrote that the court had been sceptical in the past about using the two-century- old American law under which the case is being brought, the Alien Tort Statute, as a means of pursuing cases arising out of human rights violations committed outside the U.S. In a footnote to a previous case, it had said of the apartheid case that there was "a strong argument that federal courts should give serious weight to the executive branch's view of the case's impact on foreign policy." The Bush administration, as well as the South African government, have opposed the case.

Greenhouse also suggested that the court was unable to hear the apartheid case as a consequence of three judges holding stock in defendant companies, and the employment by another company of the son of a fourth judge.  "The outcome calls attention to the occasionally uncomfortable consequences of the justices' ownership of stock in individual companies," she wrote. "With solitary recusals being much more frequent, a 4-to-4 deadlock is a more common outcome than an inability to proceed with the case at all."

Khulumani said its case targetted the multinationals "for having aided and abetted the perpetration of gross human rights violations in South Africa under apartheid by equipping and financing the apartheid government's military and security agencies."

It said all the defendants had operations in apartheid South Africa, and it was seeking damages for "specific violations of internationally recognized human rights norms... by the apartheid government following the United Nations' classification of apartheid as a crime
against humanity."

It named the defendants in the case as: Barclay National Bank Ltd., British Petroleum, PLC, Chevrontexaco Corporation, Chevrontexaco Global Energy, Inc., Citigroup, Inc., Commerzbank, Credit Suisse Group, Daimlerchrysler AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Dresdner Bank AG, Exxonmobil Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Fujitsu, Ltd., General Motors Corporations, International Business Machines Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase, Shell Oil Company, UBS AG, AEG Daimler-Benz Industrie, Fluor Corporation, Rheinmetall Group AG, Rio Tinto Group and Total-Fina-Elf
.

 

http://edinburghnew s.scotsman. com/business/ Lloyds-is- hit-by-slavery. 2515914.jp

Lloyd's is hit by slavery lawsuit

Friday, 16th May 2008

DESCENDANTS of black American slaves have accused the Lloyd’s of London insurance market and two United States companies of profiting from the slave trade in a lawsuit seeking billions of pounds in damages. The suit, filed in Manhattan’s federal court, seeks just over £1 billion in punitive damages from Lloyd’s, tobacco firm RJ Reynolds and banking group FleetBoston. The suit also seeks unspecified actual damages. Filed on behalf of six adults and two children, the suit alleges the companies intentionally sought to destroy the plaintiffs’ "people, culture, religion and heritage".

Lawyers for the eight plaintiffs said the complaint - unlike past lawsuits seeking reparations for slavery - was the first to use DNA to link the plaintiffs to Africans who suffered atrocities during the slave trade. The plaintiffs said their ancestors were transported from Africa as part of the slave trade from 1619 to 1865. They allege that Lloyd’s insured slave ships, while FleetBoston, then called Rhode Island’s Providence Bank, financed the ships in the slave trade. RJ Reynolds, the suit claims, profited from plantations. RJ Reynolds spokeswoman Ellen Matthews said the firm had not yet seen the complaint but added: "Currently we are not aware of any legal precedent or even a legal theory that would allow these cases to proceed to trial."

A Lloyd’s spokeswoman said it had not seen the claim and was not in a position to comment, but she added that previous claims regarding slavery had been dismissed. FleetBoston was not available for comment. The plaintiffs’ attorney is Edward Fagan, who is well known for taking on controversial cases. In 1998 he forced Swiss banks into a £685 million settlement on behalf of victims of the Holocaust. He said: "For the last eight years every victim group in the world but one has been given its day in court. The only group that remains is Africans or African-Americans. "

There have been other lawsuits to condemn US slavery, but Mr Fagan said his case is different because his clients can trace their roots back to their African ancestry. Plaintiffs in the past "couldn’t say what their connection was to these companies - that’s allchanged, there’s DNA now," he said. "Each one of these individuals can tell you specifically where they came from in Africa," Mr Fagan added.

 

 

Publié dans contemporary africa

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