Chiquita lawsuits (re Colombia)

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In March 2007, Chiquita admitted that it made payments from 1997 to 2004 to the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (known by its acronym in Spanish, AUC), a paramilitary organization that the US Government had designated a terrorist group.  Chiquita settled a criminal complaint by the US Government at that time and agreed to pay a $25 million fine.

Lawsuits by Colombian nationals

 In June 2007, a group of Colombians filed a lawsuit against Chiquita under the Alien Tort Claims Act and Torture Victims Protection Act in US federal court in New Jersey.  The plaintiffs are family members of trade unionists, banana workers, political organisers, social activists and others in Colombia who were targeted and killed by paramilitaries during the 1990s through 2004.  The plaintiffs contend that the funds that Chiquita paid to Colombian paramilitary organizations during this period made the company complicit in extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Chiquita’s Colombian banana-growing region.

Similar lawsuits against Chiquita alleging company’s complicity in crimes committed by AUC  in Colombia were filed in other US federal courts, including in the District of Columbia, and Florida district courts in June 2007  and Manhattan district court in November 2007.   

On 20 February 2008, the US Multidistrict Litigation Panel ordered to consolidate and transfer 6 separate lawsuits to  the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

In its annual report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in February 2008, Chiquita stated: “The company believes the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit and is defending itself vigorously against the lawsuits.”

In March 2011, two new lawsuits against Chiquita were filed in Washington on behalf of families of 931 people, who were allegedly killed by the AUC and the FARC between 1990 and 2004.  In response to the filings, Chiquita commented that the company and its employees were targeted by the groups and therefore it should not be held responsible for their crimes.

In April 2011, National Security Archive (NSA), an independent researcher group, published internal Chiquita documents, obtained from the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act.  These documents appear to contradict the company’s contention that its payments to the FARC and AUC amounted to "protection" money and that Chiquita never received any actual services in exchange for them.  In July 2015 the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to release over 9000 pages of documents filed by Chiquita in relation to paramilitary payments.  NSA had filed a freedom of information request with the SEC for these documents.

In May 2011, the new lawsuits were consolidated with other suits against the company into one,  involving allegations of over 4000 killings of Colombian nationals.  On 3 June 2011, district court denied Chiquita’s motion to dismiss all claims brought under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act.  District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that the plaintiffs may proceed with their claims against Chiquita alleging torture, extrajudicial killings, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The judge rejected Chiquita’s argument that the case should be dismissed because it could have foreign policy implications.  On 27 March 2012, the judge ruled that the court could also consider plaintiffs' legal claims based on Colombian law.   Company appealed the decision.  On 24 July 2014, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the claim under the Torture Victim Protection Act ruling that these types of claims cannot proceed against corporations and under Alien Tort Statute due to lack of connection with the U.S.  On 14 August 2014, the plaintiffs filed a petition with the court of appeals asking it to rehear the case.  In April 2015, the US Supreme Court declined to rehear the case.

Claims under Colombian law continued in the Southern District Court of Florida.   On 28 November 2016, a US district judge allowed a class action lawsuit against the company to move forward.   The court rejected the company's arguments that the case should not be heard in the US, ruling that litigation in Colombia would pose a risk to plaintiffs due to the threat of ongoing paramilitary violence in the area.  Next hearing is scheduled for October 2019.

On 11 March 2017, more than 150 plaintiffs joined a new class action lawsuit in Florida alleging funding, arming and supporting terrorist groups in their violence against civilian population in the Urabá region in Colombia.  The new case is against Cyrus Freidheim Jr., former CEO of Chiquita and Charles Keiser, the former manager of Chiquita´s operations in Colombia.  The lawsuit alleges they knew about the payments to the AUC and personally authorized them.  The case is on-going.

Lawsuits by U.S. nationals

On 11 March 2008, a federal lawsuit was filed in the Southern District Court of Florida against Chiquita by the families of five American missionaries allegedly slain by fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known by its acronym in Spanish, FARC).  After Chiquita entered the plea agreement with the US government regarding payments to the AUC, it later admitted that it had also made payments to FARC.  The US Government has designated FARC as a terrorist group. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that the payments Chiquita made to FARC (as well as material support provided by the company) supported acts of terrorism which subsequently contributed to the deaths of the five missionaries.  The company filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  In January 2018, the Court allowed the case to proceed, denying company's motion for summary judgement.  The hearing was scheduled for 5 February 2018, but Chiquita reached an out-of-court settlement with the families of victims before the trial.  Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

International proceedings

In May 2017, human rights organizations called on the International Criminal Court to investigate 14 former and current Chiquita executives and employees for complicity in crimes against humanity.

On 31 August 2018, Colombia Prosecutor General's Office announced that it would prosecute 13 former Chiquita executives on charges of alleged financing of paramilitary groups in the north-western Uraba region between 1990 and 2004.

News

- Colombia charges 13 former Chiquita executives over hundreds of murders, Colombia Reports, 1 Sep 2018
- Chiquita settles suits with families of slain missionaries, geologist, Palm Beach Post, 5 Feb 2018
- Human Rights Groups Call for ICC to Investigate Chiquita Executives for Death Squad Payments, teleSur, 19 May 2017
- Claim against Chiquita for funding Colombian death squads to go to trial in U.S.The Wisconsin Gazette, 30 Nov 2016
US Appeals Court orders SEC to release Chiquita's Colombian paramilitary payment files, Fresh Fruit Portal, 23 Jul 2015
- U.S. top court rejects Colombian Chiquita human rights suit, Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 20 Apr
- Chiquita wins dismissal of U.S. lawsuits over Colombian abuses, Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 24 Jul 2014
- [radio] Lawsuit alleges Chiquita responsible for the deaths of thousands of Colombian civilians - Part 1: The plaintiffs, Worldview, 21 Jul 2011
- [radio] Lawsuit alleges Chiquita responsible for the deaths of thousands of Colombian civilians - Part 2: The defense, Worldview, 21 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Federal Court rejects Chiquita's effort to dismiss human rights class-action suit, EarthRights International, Cohen Milstein, 3 Jun 2011
- Court Documents Reveal Chiquita Paid for Security, Jim Lobe, Aprille Muscara, IPS, 7 Apr 2011
- Families Sue Chiquita in Deaths of 5 Men, Carmen Gentile, New York Times, 17 Mar 2008
- Victims of Colombian Conflict Sue Chiquita Brands, Associated Press, 15 Nov 2007
- The Banana War, Kevin Gray, Portfolio.com, 17 Sep 2007
- Chiquita: $25M fine for terror payments, CNN.com, 11 Sep 2007
- Chiquita sued over paramilitary deaths in Colombia, Reuters, 14 Jun 2007
- Lawsuit accuses U.S. banana company Chiquita of sponsoring Colombian terrorism, Associated Press, 7 Jun 2007

Chiquita:
- Chiquita response to NGOs communication to Intl. Criminal Court, Jun 2017
- Chiquita Statement on Agreement with U.S. Department of Justice, 14 Mar 2007

US Department of Justice:
- Chiquita Brands International Pleads Guilty to Making Payments to a Designated Terrorist Organization And Agrees to Pay $25 Million Fine, 19 Mar 2007

International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs’ counsel]:
Victory in Chiquita Case as Florida Federal Judge Orders Case to Proceed in US Courts (English/Spanish), 2 Dec 2016
- Press Release: Eleventh Circuit decision in Chiquita Alien Tort Status Litigation, 30 Jul 2014
Earthrights International [plaintiffs’ counsel]:
- Doe v. Chiquita Brands International, Case summary
Earthrights International, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll:
- Victims of Colombian Atrocities Win Right to Sue Chiquita for Complicity Under Colombian Law, 27 Mar 2012

- Class action complaint for damages against Cyrus Friedheim and Charles Keiser, 11 Mar 2017
Order Denying in Part Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss, 29 Nov 2016
- [PDF] In re: Chiquita Brands International, Inc. Alien Tort Statute Litigation - Petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc, 14 Aug 2014
- [PDF] Cardona, Doe, Montes, et al. v. Chiquita Brands International - Opinion, US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, 24 Jul 2014
- [PDF] Doe v. Chiquita Brands International - Class Action Complaint for Damages, 18 Jul 2007 [filed in US District Court for the District of New Jersey]
- United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation: [PDF] In re: Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Alien Tort Statute and Shareholders Derivative Litigation - Transfer Order, 20 Feb 2008
- [PDF] Does 1-976 v Chiquita Brands International, Inc. - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 9 Mar 2010
- [PDF] Does 1-254 v Chiquita Brands International, Inc. - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 24 Mar 2011
- [PDF] Does 1-677 v Chiquita Brands International, Inc. - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 24 Mar 2011

- In re Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Alien Tort Statute and Shareholder Derivative Litigation:

- [PDF] Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration, 27 Mar 2012
- [PDF] Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Consolidated Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaints, 9 Apr 2010 
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' Supplemental Response in Opposition to Defendant's Consolidated Motion to Dismiss the Complaints, 21 May 2010 
- [PDF] Plaintiff Does 1-976' Supplemental Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, 21 May 2010 
- [PDF] Valencia Plaintiffs' Separate Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint, 21 May 2010
- [PDF] Does 1 through 254 v Chiquita Brands International - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 24 Mar 2011
- [PDF] Order of the Court denying Chiquita's motion to dismiss claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act, 3 Jun 2011

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Article
24 April 2014

Chiquita asks court to toss terror payments case [USA]

Author: AP, Washington Post

Chiquita…asked a…court…to dismiss lawsuits filed against [it] by relatives of…Colombians killed in a bloody civil war, contending the cases do not belong in a U.S. court…[The] attorney for…Chiquita [said]…that any legal action by the relatives should be pursued in Colombia. The lawsuits accuse Chiquita…of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a right-wing paramilitary group…The Colombians’ lawyer [Paul Hoffman]…countered that the cases belonged in the U.S. because Chiquita is based in this country and made decisions about the payments at its headquarters…in Cincinnati…The arguments Thursday revolved mainly around…Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum…Like that case, the Colombian lawsuits against Chiquita invoke the Alien Tort Statute…The Chiquita lawyer…said…Kiobel…means there is now a presumption against such “extraterritorial” lawsuits being brought in the U.S…Hoffman…said…[i]f there’s enough linkage between a U.S. person or company and the overseas atrocities…a case…can go forward…

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Author: Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (RIDH)

En diciembre de 2013 se celebró en Ginebra el II Foro Mundial sobre empresas y derechos humanos, que convocó a más de 1700 delegados…A pesar que este espacio de debate pretende convocar a tres actores claves -Estados, empresas y organizaciones-, la representación de los dos primeros no fue significativa en términos numéricos ni en lo que respecta a su participación en los debates…estos eventos pueden terminar en monólogos que no permiten el intercambio ni los debates entre los actores convocados...Si bien son evidentes los avances en lo que respecta a la participación es necesario ampliar los espacios colectivos de debate y discusión…Al evaluar las sesiones de trabajo, hemos ubicado los temas pendientes en el debate internacional… los cuales creemos deben ser tomados en cuenta por el Grupo de Trabajo de Naciones Unidas sobre empresas y derechos humanos para incluirlos en el próximo foro mundial de 2014...[Los temas incluyen: responsabilidad extraterritorial, responsabilidad en la cadena de suministros y de operaciones, el papel de la educación, mecanismos judiciales y no judiciales, desplazados o afectados por el cambio climático, planes de acción] [se refiere a Chiquita Brands].

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Article
1 December 2013

[PDF] The Third Pillar: Access to Judicial Remedies for Human Rights Violations by Transnational Business

Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

The Access to Judicial Remedy (A2JR) Project set out to identify and analyze the barriers in the United States, Canada, and Europe…The detailed mapping exercise undertaken in the development of this Report shows that States are generally not fulfilling their obligation to ensure access to effective judicial remedies to victims of human rights violations by businesses operating outside their territory. Victims continue to face barriers that at times can completely block their access to an effective remedy…These barriers have been overcome in only some instances…Victims of human rights violations by business, wherever the violations occur, are entitled to full and effective access to judicial remedies. In order to provide this, each State should examine the barriers in their jurisdiction and consider the range of actions they can take to alleviate them, and in particular, the recommendations contained in this Report…[Refers to Alstom, Amesys (part of Bull), Anvil Mining (part of China Minmetals), Barrick Gold, Bull, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron, Chiquita, Daimler, DLH (Dalhoff Larsen & Horneman), Drummond, ExxonMobil, HudBay Minerals, Monterrico Metals (part of Zijin), Shell, Talisman, Texaco (part of Chevron), Thor Chemicals, Unocal (part of Chevron), Veolia Environnement (formerly Vivendi), Veolia Transport (part of Veolia Environnement), Walmart, Zijin]

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Article
20 November 2013

Chiquita Loses Suit to Stop SEC [US Securities & Exchange Commission] Release of Colombia Records (1)

Author: Andrew Zajac, Blomberg Businessweek

Chiquita Brands International Inc.’s bid to stop the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from releasing documents on payments to a Colombian terrorist group was dismissed by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington rejected the company’s argument that the damage it would suffer from disclosure of the records should bar their release to a public interest group under the Freedom of Information Act…Chiquita…contended release of the records could compromise the fairness of trials in Florida, where families who claim relatives were kidnapped and murdered after the company made payments to the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia have filed lawsuits…

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Author: Cerrejón

Cerrejón está abierta al escrutinio de las comunidades, las instituciones colombianas y las organizaciones sociales interesadas en su operación pero reclama que los señalamientos se basen en informaciones ciertas y verdaderas. Lamentamos que en el escrito se afirme que Cerrejón haya tenido vínculos con grupos paramilitares por ejemplo; esto no tiene ningún fundamento en la realidad, no está contenido en el documento referenciado en el escrito y es contrario a los valores de la empresa que la comprometen con el respeto a las leyes y las instituciones colombianas...Cerrejón reitera su compromiso con la implementación de una minería responsable e invita a la Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (Ridh) y a todas las organizaciones que lo deseen a un diálogo respetuoso en información objetiva.

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Author: Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (RIDH)

El número de casos por afectaciones negativas por el accionar comercial de las empresas...es creciente y significativo...No podemos seguir justificando las violaciones de los derechos humanos escudándonos en la RSE...Ante toda esta situación recomendamos al Grupo de Trabajo sobre empresas y derechos humanos, tener en cuenta los aportes que a continuación hacemos para su reflexión y estudio...[Se refiere a Cerrejón, Chiquita, El Corte Inglés, Mango]

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Article
1 October 2013

[PDF] Out of Bounds - Accountability for Corporate Human Rights Abuse After Kiobel

Author: EarthRights International

This report presents a summary of the history, jurisprudence and politics of the [Alien Tort Statute (ATS)], explaining how this obscure law became one of the most important and hotly contested tools in the area of business and human rights and the target of attack by the corporate lobby, the Bush Administration, and eventually even the Obama Administration. We track the rise of the ATS through its highs, including the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in Sosa v. Alvarez Machain, to its recent holding in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell). We consider the future of ATS claims and other avenues for human rights litigation more broadly in light of the holding, and conclude that new tools are needed to fulfill U.S. obligations to hold corporations accountable. [Also refers to Arab Bank, CACI, Chevron, Chiquita, Cisco, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, Rio Tinto, Total, Unocal (part of Chevron).]

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Article
21 September 2013

Chiquita seeks dismissal in Colombian case

Author: Curt Anderson, AP

Faced with potentially billions of dollars in legal liability, Chiquita Brands International is asking a federal appeals court to block lawsuits filed against it in the U.S. by thousands of Colombians whose relatives were killed in that country's bloody, decades-long civil war. The produce giant…has admitted paying a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group $1.7 million over a seven-year period. The…company insists it was blackmailed into paying or risking violence against its own operations and employees, although in 2007 Chiquita pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges that it had supported terrorists…Chiquita wants the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the lawsuits because, the company claims, each murder cannot be tied specifically to the company…Chiquita also says the Colombian cases should be tossed because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling…in…Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum…

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Article
10 September 2013

Post-Kiobel roundup: Apartheid case is not dismissed, but may soon be; some positive decisions from other courts [USA]

Author: Marco Simons, Earth Rights International

The first wave of decisions interpreting the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kiobel continues to come down, and it’s a mixed bag. Perhaps most important is a terrible opinion by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the court that issued the original Kiobel ruling, in the apartheid litigation. Two other decisions, however, give some hope that many human rights cases under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) may continue after Kiobel…[Earth Rights International] is also proceeding with our ATS case against Chiquita for funding paramilitary death squads in Colombia. In that case, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is now considering the effect of the Kiobel decision on the case. If the court follows the reasoning of the judges in the SMUG v. Lively and Ahmed v. Magan cases, our ATS claims against Chiquita should continue – and Chiquita won’t be the last corporation we sue for human rights abuses.

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Author: César Rodríguez Garavito, El Espectador (Colombia)

…[Algunos de] los principales retos de los derechos humanos, sobre el que giró un importante evento organizado por el gobierno colombiano y el Grupo de Trabajo de la ONU sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos, celebrado en Medellín…[hace ver las] preocupaciones que surgen…[porque en] lugar de un diálogo equilibrado entre todos los afectados, la consulta organizada…resaltó las voces de las empresas y dejó muy poco espacio para las comunidades afectadas y las ONG que trabajan con ellas…Junto con el formato del evento, que permitía ignorar las preguntas difíciles para las empresas, el desbalance confirma la preocupación sobre la parcialidad del Grupo de Trabajo…Sería lamentable que el Grupo de Trabajo, diseñado para fortalecer los principios de la ONU, les resten credibilidad. Ojalá no ocurra. [Se refiere a Chiquita Brands, WalMart, Zara (parte de Inditex), Gap y Shell]

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