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Lawsuit

5 Mar 2012

Author:
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Nestlé lawsuit (re Colombia)

Status: ONGOING

Incident date
March 5, 2012
Unknown
Location of Filing: Switzerland
Location of Incident: Colombia
Type of Litigation: Domestic

Companies

Nestlé Switzerland Food & beverage

Sources

Factual Background

Trade unionist Luciano Romero was an employee of Nestlé’s Colombian subsidiary, Cicolac.  Romero was murdered in Colombia by paramilitaries in 2005. According to the complaint filed, Romero began receiving death threats after Cicolac falsely branded him a guerilla fighter. 

Legal Argument

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal alleged that Nestlé was complicit in Romero's murder by failing to take precautionary measures to prevent the murder. Nestlé denied the allegations, as well as allegations that it had falsely branded Romero a guerilla fighter.

Legal Proceeding

On 5 March 2012, ECCHR and Sinaltrainal filed a criminal complaint against Nestlé and its senior management with the public prosecutor in Zug, Switzerland. The public prosecutor assessed the complaint to determine whether the allegations were actionable under Swiss criminal law. 

In May 2013 the prosecutor's office dismissed the complaint because it was filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations.  The plaintiffs have appealed the dismissal.  On 21st July 2014, Switzerland's highest court rejected the appeal and confirmed that the statute of limitations had been exceeded in the case.

Latest Update

In December 2014, ECCHR filed a complaint against Switzerland, on behalf of Luciano Romero's widow, before the European Court of Human Rights. In May 2015, the Court dismissed this complaint, exhausting all legal avenues in Europe. However, the Romero case is also part of a criminal complaint before the International Criminal Court on the systematic persecution of trade unionists in Colombia. This procedure is still on-going.

News Items

- "Swiss court clears Nestlé in Colombia widow case", 2 Aug 2014
- "Swiss prosecutors close Colombian widow's case against Nestle", AFP, 2 May 2013
- “Complaint against Nestlé over Colombian death”, Swissinfo.ch, 6 Mar 2012

Nestlé
Letter to Colombian Trade Union, 16 Mar 2012
- [DOC] Nestlé response re suit alleging its complicity in murder of Colombian trade unionist, 7 Mar 2012

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights
Swiss Judiciary declines access to justice, 1 Aug 2014
- Nestlé Test Case: Charges filed on murder of Colombian Trade Unionist, 6 Mar 2012
- [ES] Caso Nestlé: Querella por Homicidio de un sindicalista colombiano, 6 marzo 2012

Case Timeline