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Main Content: Apartheid reparations lawsuits (re So. Africa)

Case profile: Apartheid reparations lawsuits (re So. Africa)

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In 2002 a group of South Africans, represented by the Khulumani Support Group, sued 20 banks and corporations in US federal court that did business in South Africa during apartheid.  The plaintiffs allege that the participation of the defendant companies in key industries during the apartheid era was influential in encouraging and furthering abuses against black Africans during that time.  The plaintiffs are victims of human rights abuses such as extrajudicial killings, torture and rape, and they allege that the defendants’ activities in South Africa during the apartheid era made them complicit in the commission of those abuses.  The South African Government was opposed to this lawsuit, and it filed documentation with both the district court and appeals court publicly stating its position regarding the case.  A federal district court judge granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss in November 2004.  The plaintiffs appealed this dismissal in August of 2005.  In October of 2007, the appeals court reversed the lower court's dismissal of this case and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.  On 10 January 2008, the defendant companies petitioned the US Supreme Court for certiorari, asking the court to hear their appeal of the October 2007 decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  In May 2008, the US Supreme Court declared that it could not intervene in this case because four of the nine justices had to recuse themselves for apparent conflicts.  Lacking the required quorum, the Supreme Court had no option but to uphold the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals allowing the lawsuit to proceed.  On 8 April 2009, the federal district court issued a ruling in this case.  The judge's ruling narrowed the claims in the case but allowed the case to continue against Daimler, Ford, General Motors, IBM and Rheinmetall Group.  In September 2009, the South African Government announced its support of the lawsuit, withdrawing its previous opposition to the case.  The South African Justice Minister sent a letter to the District Court judge informing her that the government believes the court to be the appropriate forum to decide this case.  In August 2013 the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit returned the case to the lower court and recommended dismissing the case, citing the US Supreme Court's limitation on extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Claims Act in Kiobel v. Shell.  On 26 December 2013 the lower court issued an order dismissing Daimler and Rheinmetall from the case, but the court declined to dismiss the claims against IBM and Ford. In April 2014, the lower court ruled the plaintiffs could amend their complaints against Ford and IBM to provide evidence that the companies’ activities “touch and concern” the territory of the United States. The judge said that in order to overcome the presumption against extraterritoriality set forth in Kiobel, the plaintiffs must show corporate presence plus additional factors. The case is on-going.

On 27 February 2012, the plaintiffs reached a settlement with General Motors.

- "U.S. judge dismisses apartheid claims against 2 German companies", Nate Raymond, Reuters, 27 Dec 2013
- "High Court Decision Cited in Rejection of Apartheid Liability", Brendan Pierson, New York Law Journal, 22 Aug 2013
- "US General Motors settles apartheid reparations claim", Adrian Ephraim, Mail & Guardian, 29 Feb 2012
- "State supports apartheid-era victims", Christelle Terreblanche, Cape Times [So. Africa], 3 Sep 2009
- "Judge Narrows Claims in Apartheid Torts Case Against Multinational Companies", Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal, 9 Apr 2009
- "Court won't block U.S. lawsuit by apartheid victims", Mark Sherman, Associated Press, 12 May 2008

- “US court allows apartheid claims to go forward”, Paritosh Bansal, Reuters, 12 Oct 2007

- “Apartheid Victims Sue Global Corporations”, Alison Raphael, OneWorld US, 13 Nov 2002


- South African Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeffrey Radebe: [PDF] Letter to Judge Shira Scheindlin regarding In Re South African Apartheid Litigation, 1 Sep 2009
- South African Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Dr. P M Maduna: [PDF] Declaration of Minister Maduna to US District Court Judge Spizzo, 11 Jul 2003

- South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma: [PDF] Letter to US Secretary of State Colin Powell Re Apartheid Litigation, 16 May 2002

 

- Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP (plaintiffs’ co-counsel): case summary (includes links to legal briefs filed in this case)
- Hausfeld LLP (plaintiffs' co-counsel):  Khulumani v. Barclays National Bank Ltd. - Info Center

- Khulumani Support Group (plaintiffs): Khulumani Lawsuit in New York

- Khulumani Support Group: US Circuit Court dismisses apartheid litigation, 22 Aug 2013

- [PDF] In re South African Apartheid Litigation, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, 26 Dec 2013 [order dismissing Daimler & Rheinmetall from case]
- [PDF] Balintulo v. Daimler AG, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 21 Aug 2013
- [PDF] American Isuzu Motors, Inc., et al. v. Lungisile Ntsebeza, et al. - Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners, 11 Feb 2008 [brief of in support of dismissal of lawsuit]
- [PDF] American Isuzu Motors Inc. et al. v. Ntsebeza et al. - Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, 10 Jan 2008 [petition filed by the defendant companies at US Supreme Court]
- US District Court for the Southern District of New York: [PDF] In re South African Apartheid Litigation, 8 Apr 2009
- US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit: [PDF] Khulumani v. Barclay National Bank, Ltd., 12 Oct 2007 

 

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