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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Author: AFP

Una reciente avalancha de demandas ante la justicia estadounidense contra empresas acusadas de complicidad en la violación de derechos humanos suena como una advertencia a las grandes firmas...según analistas. Víctimas del régimen del apartheid en Sudáfrica acaban de ser autorizadas a querellarse en Estados Unidos contra varias multinacionales como General Motors o IBM...[se refiere también a Daimler, Rheinmetall, Ford, Shell, Blackwater]

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8 April 2009

Judge Allows Some Claims To Proceed In Apartheid Litigation

Author: Chad Bray, Dow Jones

A [US]federal judge on Wednesday allowed some claims by two groups of victims of apartheid in South Africa to proceed in long-running litigation against several corporations for allegedly providing essential assistance to the apartheid regime…U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin in Manhattan allowed some claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act of aiding and abetting the apartheid government to continue against auto makers General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG ; computer manufacturer…IBM; and Rheinmetall Group AG, the parent of armaments maker Oerlikon Contraes AG…[T]he judge dismissed other claims of aiding and abetting against Fujitsu Ltd., IBM and the auto makers, but gave the plaintiffs the right to file amended complaints. She also dismissed claims against Barclays Bank PLC and UBS AG.

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8 April 2009

[PDF] [Text of ruling re South African apartheid litigation]

Author: United States District Court Southern District of New York

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Author: ATS (Agence télégraphique suisse)

Un tribunal de New York a examiné jeudi une demande de rejet des plaintes déposées par des victimes de l'apartheid en Afrique du Sud contre... l'UBS, la banque Barclays, le constructeur automobile Daimler et IBM d'avoir directement soutenu le régime de l'apartheid… L'avocat de l'UBS, Francis Barron, a de son côté demandé à la juge Shira Scheindlin de rejeter la plainte… Pour la juge, le seul fait de commercer avec le gouvernement de l'apartheid ne constitue pas un délit. Elle a demandé aux plaignants de prouver que les activités des entreprises ont conduit directement à des violations des droits de l'homme.

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31 January 2009

[PDF] Justice for Apartheid Crimes - Corporations, States and Human Rights

Author: Phil Clark, Teddy Harrison, Briony Jones, Lydiah Kemunto Bosire, Oxford Transitional Justice Research

This symposium explored issues surrounding post apartheid justice and redress in South Africa for human rights abuses in which corporations are allegedly implicated. In close collaboration with the Khulumani Support Group…the symposium considered broader questions around corporate accountability, post-conflict redress, and international relations through the lens of the Khulumani et al v. Barclays et al lawsuit currently underway in the New York Southern District Court…The purpose of this report is to reflect the discussions at the symposium and to contribute to ongoing debates regarding corporate accountability, transitional justice, post-apartheid redress, and the use of domestic and international law in responding to human rights violations. [refers to Barclays, Daimler, Ford, Fujitsu, General Motors, IBM, Rheinmetall, Union Bank of Switzerland]

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27 January 2009

[PDF] Justice for apartheid crimes: corporations, states and human rights [30 Jan, Oxford, UK]

Author: Oxford Transitional Justice Research, University of Oxford

A one-day symposium exploring issues of corporate accountability, post-conflict redress and international relations through the lens of the Khulumani et al v. Barclays et al court case underway in the New York Southern District Court.
Date: Friday, 30 January
Time: 09:00 – 17:00
Venue: Nissan Lecture Theatre, St. Antony’s College

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30 September 2008

Open Wounds - Big Oil and Big Mining face a host of allegations that they helped commit human rights abuses

Author: Michael Goldhaber with Daphne Eviatar, American Lawyer

...[A pending case against Chevron] explores the company's alleged complicity in killing one man and injuring three others. The suit was brought under the alien tort statute, which allows U.S. recovery for overseas violations of the law of nations... [The] plaintiffs bar is still gunning for its first trial victory on the theory of "corporate alien tort."... Some industry attorneys dismiss these claims as the fevered imaginings of global ambulance chasers. But, putting aside the merit or prospects of each case, there's no denying the inherent risks of abuse in the business of extraction. [also refers to lawsuits against Texaco, Unocal (both now part of Chevron), Drummond, Talisman; positive steps by BP]

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1 September 2008

Corporate legal accountability for human rights abuses in South Africa

Author: Charles Abrahams, Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys (So. Africa)

…The [2002]…Report of the Reparations & Rehabilitation Committee…found that major corporations in the extractive industry generally benefited financially and materially from…apartheid…One of the legacies…that persists…is the desperate situation of ex-gold mineworkers who…were repatriated home by mining corporations when they sustained serious injuries or contracted the deadly silicosis disease or pulmonary-tuberculosis…Plaintiffs…are impoverished…and do not have the financial means to bring cases…before South African courts…[P]ublic interest lawyers who…take on these cases generally come from very small law practices…Law firms acting on behalf of big mining corporations are…well endowed with infrastructure, resources and capacity…[and] have the ability to obtain the services of the best legal counsel...[Therefore] the Bill of Rights…is severely hamstrung by the equality of arms that millions…lack in order to redress the huge socio-economic imbalance that still to this day persists in South Africa as a result of apartheid. [Also refers to Anglo American Corporation, AngloGold Ashanti]

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12 May 2008

Court won't block US lawsuit by apartheid victims

Author: Mark Sherman, Associated Press

The Supreme Court said...that it can't intervene in an important dispute over the rights of apartheid victims to sue U.S. corporations in U.S. courts because four of the nine justices had to sit out the case over apparent conflicts…. The court's hands were tied by federal laws that require at least six justices to hear any case before them. Short of the required number by one, the court took the only path available to it and upheld an appeals court ruling allowing the suit to proceed…. The lawyers [for the South Africans bringing the complaint] said they plan to narrow their complaint, perhaps omitting some corporations and showing more clearly how the companies assisted the apartheid government. [refers to Bank of America, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Credit Suisse, ExxonMobil, HP, IBM, Isuzu, Nestle]

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Author: Agence France-Presse

La Cour suprême des États-Unis a avalisé lundi la recevabilité d'une série de plaintes réclamant plusieurs milliards de dollars à une cinquantaine de multinationales accusées d'avoir aidé le gouvernement sud-africain pendant la période de l'apartheid... [La] Cour...précise que le quorum n'a pas été atteint dans ce cas, quatre des neuf juges s'étant récusés en raison de possibles conflits d'intérêt avec les entreprises incriminées... La procédure vise une cinquantaine de sociétés dont Shell, Citigroup, Barclays, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil, Ford, Fujitsu...IBM...

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