Thursday, January 7, 2010

Corporate Giants Sued for "Aiding and Abetting" Human Rights Violations in South Africa During Apartheid

"Judge Allows Apartheid Suit Against Corporations"


"A federal judge in Manhattan again allowed a lawsuit to proceed against several corporate giants for their alleged role in aiding South Africa's oppressive apartheid regime. Daimler AG, General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and IBM are accused of 'aiding and abetting' human rights violations under the apartheid government.

In October, the South African government reversed its position and threw its support behind the class action, brought in 2002 by victims of apartheid crimes, including torture, rape and denationalization.

The class members filed suit on behalf of 'themselves and all black South African citizens' for violations of the law of nations.

From 1960 to 1994, blacks in South Africa were deprived of their citizenship and were forced to become citizens of tribally based homelands called 'Bantustans.'

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin gave the suit new life last year when she gave the plaintiff class the opportunity to sue under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The 220-year-old law lets U.S. federal courts hear human rights cases brought by foreigners alleging violations of international law.

The defendants unsuccessfully sought dismissal, saying corporations are exempt under the statute.

Judge Scheindlin denied their bid to dismiss the case last spring, and then rejected a motion for 'certification of an interlocutory appeal' in the most recent action."

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