Originally published September 25 2014
U.S. corporations can't be punished for supporting murders and war crimes in other countries, judge says
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) A federal appeals court has ruled that family members of employees working for an American corporation in a foreign country who were killed while on the job by paramilitary forces that the corporation allegedly backed cannot sue the company for damages.
According to Courthouse News Service, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that relatives of coal miners and union leaders working for Drummond Co. who were killed by Colombian paramilitary forces have no standing to file suit, even though the corporation allegedly supported murderers and war criminals:
Valmore Locarno Rodriquez, Victor Hugo Orcasita Amaya, and Gustavo Soler Mora worked for Drummond's coal mining operation in Columbia, South America until their murders in 2001.
All three were officials of a union, Sintramienergetica.
Their children and heirs claimed that Drummond conspired with right-wing paramilitaries forces of Autodefensas Unidas de Columbia (AUC) to murder and terrorize union workers at the mine.
Paying mercenaries in another country is okay
"Almost every family in these provinces lost a family member, a neighbor or friend to war crimes committed by the AUC during its brutal civil war with the FARC [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia]," the complaint states.
Courthouse News reports that the AUC was created in the 1990s to battle left-wing guerrillas led by FARC and the National Liberation Army, or ELN. The latter two groups have been fighting the Colombian government for decades; the U.S. has provided much assistance to the Colombian government in its war against FARC and ELN over the years.
The AUC, meanwhile, has terrorized much of the country's population through the use of executions, torture, rape and large-scale military assaults on civilians considered to be anti-AUC and supporters of the left-wing opposition.
The organization has also set its sights on "socially undesirable" groups like indigenous tribes, those who are thought to have psychological problems, prostitutes and drug addicts.
In 1991, the Colombian government made it illegal to belong to or support paramilitary organizations, but private security groups called "convivir" units still organized under the AUC umbrella while claiming to act as security forces for companies seeking to guard against left-wing attacks.
Recently, the 11th Circuit threw out a similar lawsuit filed against Chiquita Brands International for allegedly provided funds to AUC; the court based its ruling on an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, for the same reasons: Apparently, American corporations can hire murderous mercenaries and revolutionaries, just not in the U.S.
As Courthouse News reported:
Decided last year, Kiobel barred torture claims brought against Shell Petroleum under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) because none of the activity underlying the suit took place in the U.S.
In this case, the 11th Circuit also found that the alleged violations of international law all took place in [Colombia], not in the U.S.
It didn't happen in the U.S., so...
"Plaintiffs' first amended complaint paints a picture of violence between two warring factions in Colombia. Drummond elected to back the AUC, which committed acts of violence against leftist guerillas who threatened Drummond's personnel and property. Plaintiffs allege that the AUC killed civilians who they believed were affiliated with the guerillas (including Locarno, Orcasita, and Soler)," wrote U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans for the three-judge panel. "Certain Colombian nationals have been convicted of committing the murders of Locarno and Orcasita. Assuming arguendo that Drummond was complicit in these murders in the manner described by plaintiffs (this is denied by Drummond), the allegations and evidence still do not show conduct focused in the United States."
The appeals panel, which is based in Atlanta, also denied plaintiffs the ability to amend their compliant and suit, stating that it would be futile to stretch out a dispute that is more than 11 years old.
Courthouse News reported:
The Atlanta-based appeals court denied the plaintiffs leave to amend, finding that amendment would be futile and needlessly prolong an 11-year long litigation. "[We] dismiss plaintiffs' claims for violation of the law of nations brought under the ATS because the presumption against extraterritoriality has not been overcome," Evans said.
Meanwhile, Big Pharma corporation Pfizer, an American firm, agreed to an out-of-court settlement to compensate perhaps more than 540 families allegedly injured by an experimental vaccine trial in Nigeria. According to Al Jazeera, parents of four children who were killed by the vaccine have been paid the equivalent of $175,000 each.
The trials took place in 1996; 11 children died; dozens more were disabled.
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