Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Contact

Valentina Stackl (USA)
valentina@earthrights.org
+ 1-202-466-5188 x 100

Press Release

Victims of Colombian Death Squads Can Move Forward With Case Against Former Chiquita Executives

WASHINGTON -

In a victory for accountability for corporate crimes, families of those murdered by Colombian paramilitary death squads can proceed with a U.S. federal lawsuit against former Chiquita executives. Yesterday, Judge Kenneth Marra of the Southern District of Florida ruled that, according to the plaintiffs’ allegations, “profits took priority over basic human welfare” in the banana company executives’ decision to finance the illegal death squads, despite knowing that this would advance the paramilitaries’ murderous campaign.

EarthRights International (ERI) brought suit against Chiquita in 2007 on behalf of victims and surviving family members of thousands of villagers, labor leaders, and community organizers who were killed by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), after Chiquita pled guilty to federal criminal charges for funding and providing material support to the AUC, an outlawed terrorist organization. In 2012, the plaintiffs sued several individual Chiquita executives involved in the illegal funding scheme.

“Corporations do not act without individuals,” said Marco Simons, General Counsel of EarthRights International (ERI), co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “The court’s decision ensures that these individuals, whose alleged conduct helped enable a reign of terror, cannot hide from their wrongdoing.”

The class-action lawsuit, Doe v. Chiquita, alleges that over the course of several years, Chiquita and its executives – including former CEOs, General Counsels and General Managers – made or approved illegal payments to the AUC which totaled approximately $1.7 million, all the while knowing full well that they were funding a designated terrorist organization. (See Appendix, below, for information on the allegations against each individual defendant.)

The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit on numerous grounds, including that the plaintiffs had not shown that they were personally involved in wrongful conduct, and because the abuses had occurred abroad. Judge Marra rejected these arguments, allowing the lawsuit to move forward against all defendants in ERI’s lawsuit.

The judge also rejected the defendants’ argument that the plaintiffs have other “adequate and available” remedies in Colombia, relying in part on plaintiffs’ evidence that litigation in Colombia would be too dangerous because of the ongoing risk of violent retaliation.

Chiquita lost a similar motion to dismiss in 2011.

In addition to ERI, the plaintiffs are represented by the law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP, and attorneys Judith Brown Chomsky, Arturo Carrillo, and John DeLeon.

Documents:
Judge's Order
appendix_chiquita.pdf

###

EarthRights International (ERI) is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that combines the power of law and the power of people in defense of human rights and the environment, which we define as "earth rights." We specialize in fact-finding, legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, training grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns. Through these strategies, EarthRights International seeks to end earth rights abuses, to provide real solutions for real people, and to promote and protect human rights and the environment in the communities where we work.

'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·


'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·


To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo