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. On 29 August 2014, the lower court judge dismissed the case finding that the plaintiffs had not shown a sufficient connection with the United States to warrant the case being heard in US court.  On 27 July 2015, the court of appeals upheld the lower court's dismissal of the case. On 20 June, the US Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ appeal, of a lower court decision holding that the plaintiffs had failed to show a sufficiently close connection between IBM and Ford’s actions in the US and human rights abuses by the apartheid government.

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

- "U.S. top court declines to revive apartheid claims against IBM, Ford", Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 20 Jun 2016
- "Ford, IBM defeat appeal over apartheid abuses - U.S. court", Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 27 Jul 2015
- "Apartheid corporate lawsuit dismissed", Reuters, 29 Aug 2014
- "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] Balintulo v. Ford, IBM, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 27 Jul 2015 [order affirmng lower court's dismissal]
- [PDF] In re South African Apartheid Litigation, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, 29 Aug 2014 [order dismissing the lawsuit]
- [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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Article
4 September 2012

[PDF] Kiobel and Corporate Social Responsibility: An Issues Brief

Author: Professor John Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights

On October 1, 2012, the United States Supreme Court will rehear arguments in a landmark case...Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum...brought by Nigerian plaintiffs against Shell...alleging that the company aided and abetted the Nigerian military dictatorship in the 1990s in the commission of gross human rights violations, including torture, extra-judicial execution, and crimes against humanity... Should the corporate responsibility to respect human rights remain entirely divorced from litigation strategy and tactics, particularly where the company has choices about the grounds on which to defend itself? Should the litigation strategy aim to destroy an entire juridical edifice for redressing gross violations of human rights, particularly where other legal grounds exist to protect the company’s interests? ... I don’t know what the correct answers to these questions are… What I do know is that if, on top of the many other reputational and legal challenges it has faced over the years, Shell also ends up being held responsible for so radically constricting the ATS, its road back to the corporate social responsibility fold will be long and hard. [also refers to lawsuits against Unocal (now part of Chevron), Total, ExxonMobil, Talisman]

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Article
29 February 2012

US General Motors settles apartheid reparations claim

Author: Adrian Ephraim, Mail & Guardian [So. Africa]

Twenty-five South Africans who suffered at the hands of the apartheid security police have claimed a small victory after a United States court ratified a settlement between the claimants and a bankrupt General Motors. It is claimed that the corporations produced parts of vehicles that were used by the apartheid police to carry out assassinations of activists and brutal raids. In a "show of good faith", General Motors negotiated a "without prejudice" settlement with the claimants, despite the fact that the bankruptcy court in the US ruled that they had no claim...Charles Abrahams, attorney for Khulumani, told the M&G: "The settlement is a small amount. It was a show of good faith on the part of General Motors, considering that they are bankrupt."

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Article
21 February 2012

Corporate Accountability Now

Author: Corporate Accountability Now is a joint project of EarthRights International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Human Rights Litigation and International Legal Advocacy Clinic at the University of Minnesota Law School

On February 28, 2012, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that will determine whether corporations can be sued for their complicity in torture, crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses [Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, and Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority]. These cases have profound implications for the future of corporate accountability in the United States. [Site has profiles of the following additional lawsuits: Holocaust settlements; Doe v. Unocal; Wang Xiaoyang v. Yahoo!; Blackwater cases; Apartheid cases; Almog v. Arab Bank; Chiquita cases; Sarei v. Rio Tinto; Abu Ghraib cases; Doe v. Cisco; Doe v. Exxon Mobil; Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners]

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Article
1 October 2011

[PDF] CSR in conflict and post-conflict environments: from risk management to value creation

Author: Maria Prandi and Josep M. Lozano (eds.), Escola de Cultura de Pau & ESADE: Institute for Social Innovation

[T]here are significant experiences of companies that are participating in peace-building in numerous
countries, thus playing an increasingly important role in issues that affect global governance...National and international companies have developed peace-building policies by supporting the generation of entrepreneurship and job opportunities for vulnerable populations, building bridges among communities, actively supporting peace negotiations or adapting their products to the setting. Without getting into an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of this participation, this publication spotlights the factors in sustainable CSR during conflict and post-conflict, and it offers specific guidelines for companies that want to adopt a strategic vision in this sphere. [refers to Shell, Grupo Éxito, Microsoft, Heineken, Total, MOGE, MTN, Grupo Amanco (part of Mexichem), Pavco (part of Mexichem), BP, Lonrho, Lundin Petroleum]

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Article
1 August 2011

[PDF] Exaggerated rumours of the death of an Alien tort? Corporations, human rights and the remarkable case of Kiobel

Author: Odette Murray, David Kinley (Sydney University) & Chip Pitts (Stanford Law School), in Melbourne Journal of International Law

...[W]e have become accustomed to assuming that corporations are proper subjects of litigation for alleged infringements of the ‘law of nations’ under the Alien Tort Statute (‘ATS’). But, in a dramatic reversal of this line of reasoning, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Kiobel v Royal Dutch...has dismissed this assumption and concluded that corporations cannot be sued under the ATS. This article explores the Court’s reasoning and the ramifications of the decision, highlighting the ways in which the Kiobel judgment departs from both Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent. The authors take to task the critical failure of the majority in Kiobel to distinguish between the requirements of legal responsibility at international law and that which is necessary to invoke ATS jurisdiction in the US District Courts...

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Article
1 November 2010

[PDF] The past and present of corporate complicity: Financing the Argentinean dictatorship

Author: J.P Bohoslavsky & V. Opgenhaffen, in Harvard Human Rights Journal

This paper examines the main legal aspects of corporate civil responsibility for facilitating serious violations of human rights, focusing specifically on bank activity. It analyzes, in detail, the Argentinean case and the financial support received by the last military dictatorship...[It inspects] a missing element along this spectrum of Argentina’s long search for accountability and justice: the role of foreign financial institutions and the potential to claim that they were complicit in supporting a regime well-known to have been committing mass human rights violations...Finally, the authors suggest that the assistance provided by private financial institutions played a significant enough role...to warrant a closer examination and possible future legal action on the basis of complicity in crimes against humanity...[also refers to Barclays, Chiquita, Isuzu, Nestlé, UBS, Yahoo!, Unocal (part of Chevron)]

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Article
1 September 2010

[PDF] Seminar: The unfinished business of Apartheid [Bonn, 24-25 Sep 2010]

Author: Kosa

In 2002 South African Apartheid victims filed a claim for compensation in the United States of America against five international companies. Daimler, Ford, IBM, General Motors and Rheinmetall are accused of consciously supporting the racial system of Apartheid in South Africa...Together with Marjorie Jobson, the director of Khulumani, Charles Abrahams, the victims’ lawyer and further guests we would like to inform about the claim’s background and discuss possibilities and legal options of implementing international human rights...[Contributors include: Hein Moellers, Marjorie Jobson, Johanna Kusch, Miriam Saage-Maass, Charles Abrahams]

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Article
19 August 2010

Human Rights Human wrongs [So. Africa]

Author: [opinion] Michael Hausfeld, Ralph Bunche, Mail & Guardian [So. Africa]

Victims of extrajudicial murder, torture, rape, and prolonged arbitrary detention filed a lawsuit in the United States in 2002 against multinational corporations alleging they aided and abetted the apartheid regime in the commission of gross human rights abuses...Reflecting frustration over the more than seven years the litigation has been stalled by the defendant corporations, the mounted a national publicity campaign during the 2010 Soccer World Cup highlighting the alleged complicity of those corporations-including those sponsoring their national teams in the South African-hosted games...The defendant companies -- General Motors, Ford, Daimler, IBM and Rheinmettal -- are alleged to have provided the means by which security forces of the apartheid regime brutally and physically enforced the system of racial repression through the commission of gross human rights violations.

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Article
30 July 2010

[PDF] Are German Sovereignty and Economic Interests Being Put Before Legal Claims For Victims of the South African Apartheid?

Author: Miriam Saage-Maaß, ECCHR

South African victims of the apartheid regime have filed compensation claims in the USA against Daimler AG and four other companies. The claimants charge that the enterprises either participated directly in international offences, or aided and abetted the human rights violations committed by South African authorities…Since the complaints were first filed…, the responsible courts have repeatedly asked US, South African and German governments to submit their respective opinions…Only…Germany still adheres to its original opinion: the proceedings in the USA, it maintains, are not legitimate…The Federal Government’s argument that such lawsuits should be judged by German courts is to be applauded insofar as it tacitly approves damage suits against companies like Daimler Benz. However,…compensation claims are almost impossible to bring under German law.

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Article
1 June 2010

[PDF] Think globally, sue locally: Out-of-court tactics employed by plaintiffs, their lawyers, and their advocates in transnational tort cases

Author: Jonathan Drimmer, Steptoe & Johnson, released by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform

Over the past 15 years, there has been a sharp rise in lawsuits brought against United States companies, as well as foreign companies with a substantial U.S. presence, that are premised on alleged personal or environmental injuries that occur overseas...With increasing frequency, plaintiffs, their attorneys, and their advocates are employing aggressive out-of court tactics that approach, straddle, and sometimes cross ethical lines in seeking to gain litigation advantages....The tactics...have clearly demonstrable patterns. Among them are: Aggressive media tactics...Community organizing tactics...Investment tactics...Political tactics...Fraudulent misconduct...[refers to AirScan, Archer Daniels Midland, Bridgestone, Bridgestone-Firestone (part of Bridgestone), Brylane (part of Pinault Printemps-Redoute), Cargill, Chevron, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Del Monte Foods, Dole, Dow Chemical, Drummond, ExxonMobil, Gap, Gulf Oil, Levi Strauss, Mercedes-Benz (part of Daimler), Mobil Oil (part of ExxonMobil), Nestlé, Occidental Petroleum, Petroecuador, Pfizer, PPR (formerly Pinault-Printemps-Redoute), Rio Tinto, Shell, Target, Texaco (part of Chevron), Union Carbide (part of Dow), Unocal (part of Chevron), Wal-Mart, Yahoo!]

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