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Nestlé lawsuit (re Colombia)

Luciano Romero, Credit - Rebelion.org

In 2012, two NGOs filed a criminal complaint against Nestlé with the public proseuctor in Zug, Switzerland, alleging that Nestlé was complicit in the murder of the trade unionist for Nestlé's Colombian subsidiary. The Court dismissed the complaint, stating the statute of limitations had expired. The case has also been presented before the European Court of Human RIghts and the International Criminal Court, where it is still ongoing. 


Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales contra Nestlé por actividades en Colombia, haga clic acá.

Pour une version française de ce profil, cliquez ici.

On 5 March 2012, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal filed a criminal complaint against Nestlé and its senior management with the public prosecutor in Zug, Switzerland.  The complaint alleged that Nestlé was complicit in the murder of trade unionist Luciano Romero, a former employee of Nestlé’s Colombian subsidiary, Cicolac, for failing to take precautionary measures to prevent the murder.  Romero was murdered in Colombia by paramilitaries in 2005.  The complaint claimed that Romero began receiving death threats after Cicolac falsely branded him a guerilla fighter.  Nestlé denied these  allegations.

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.

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.

- "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

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

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Author: European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

Le Tribunal fédéral suisse a rejeté le recours de la veuve du syndicaliste de Sinaltrainal et travailleur de Nestlé en Colombie...Le Tribunal fédéral a confirmé la décision du Ministère public et du Tribunal cantonal que le délai de prescription de l'action pénale contre l'entreprise Nestlé avait été acquis. Il s'est ainsi prononcé contre l'avis du Conseil fédéral et d'une grande partie de la doctrine, selon lequel la responsabilité de l'entreprise est une infraction continue- et n'était alors pas prescrite...La question centrale de la responsabilité pénale de l'entreprise Nestlé dans l'assassinat de son employé reste ainsi non résolue...« Le résultat démontre que le système suisse ne garantit toujours pas l'accès à la justice pour les victimes des violations graves des droits de l'homme commises par des entreprises. Si le système judiciaire ne peut le garantir, alors il est nécessaire de le réviser », avance l'avocat suisse de la veuve, Marcel Bosonnet...

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1 August 2014

Swiss Judiciary declines access to justice

Author: European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the...widow of the assassinated Colombian...trade unionist and Nestlé-worker Luciano Romero...She had appealed against the closing of the investigations into the responsibility of Nestlé for the murder...The...Court confirmed...that the investigations were statute-barred. It thereby departed from the interpretation...that it is a continuing offence – which, hence, would not be statute-barred...The real issue of the responsibility of the company...for the assassination of one of its workers remains unexamined...With the restrictive interpretation of the Federal Supreme Court there is now a need to reform the statute of limitations...In conflict zones such as Colombia, Nestlé must guarantee the security of its workers and may not aggravate the hazardous situation of trade unionists...In Colombian criminal proceedings, the murder was qualified as a crime against humanity.

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Author: AFP

"Suiza archiva demanda de sindicato colombiano contra Nestlé", 01 Agosto 2014

El Tribunal Federal suizo...rechazó el recurso de la viuda del sindicalista de Sinaltrainal y trabajador de Nestlé en Colombia, Luciano Romero, contra la decisión de archivar su demanda...El Tribunal confirmó...que los hechos estaban prescritos, indicó el ECCHR (Centre europeo para los derechos constitucionales y humanos)...El Tribunal Federal puso fin al procedimiento por motivos formales, indica el colectivo, que añade contemplar ahora recurrir al Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos...Nestlé estaba acusado de ser corresponsable por negligencia del asesinato en 2005 de un exempleado de una de sus filiales...

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Author: Tribunal fédéral suisse

[Texte intégral de la décision du Tribunal fédéral rejetant le recours contre Nestlé]

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Company response
21 February 2014

Nestlé response to ECCHR press release “Swiss judiciary must investigate Nestlé case” of 9 January 2014

Author: Nestlé

The safety and security of our workers is a top priority for Nestlé, and the attempt of the ECCHR to put our company in disrepute by trying to discredit both the Colombian and the Swiss justice system is surprising and disappointing...Nestlé condemns all forms of violence. We have never used violence, nor have we associated with criminals. We have no responsibility whatsoever, directly or indirectly, neither by action nor omission for the murder of Luciano Romero....In all cases, neither Nestlé nor any of its executives were charged, indicted or convicted of any action or omission that could make any of them responsible for the murder...

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9 January 2014

[PDF] European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights press release - Swiss judiciary must investigate the Nestlé case

Author: European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (Germany)

[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Nestlé to respond. Response provided.] The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights...brought the case of the murdered trade unionist Luciano Romero to the Federal Tribunal...[T]he Swiss Cantonal Court...failed to understand the statute of limitation with respect to the corporate liability, which does not depend on the date of the crime. The company has not undertaken any measures in order to remedy the deficient organization in the company. This so-called organizational deficit, on which Nestlé's liability is founded, cannot therefore be statute-barred...The criminal complaint accused senior managers, as well as the Nestlé company itself, of negligently contributing to the murder by paramilitaries of Luciano Romero on 10 September 2005 in...Colombia...

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Company response
7 January 2014

Nestlé & Danish Institute for Human Rights joint response

Author: Nestlé & Danish Institute for Human Rights

[We invited Nestlé to respond to an NGO statement criticising its human rights impact assessment undertaken with Danish Institute for Human Rights. Joint response by Nestlé and Danish Institute for Human Rights provided]. We read with interest the joint statement from Blue Planet Project, FIVAS, Food & Water Watch and Public Services International. We found that many of the observations in this statement are in stark contrast to the responses we have received from other stakeholders who have recognized Talking the Human Rights Walk as a step forward in the field of business and human rights...[W]e view [the report] as a tool that will help us to engage in more in-depth discussions with a broad range of individuals and organizations that are willing to contribute to the ongoing debate around HRIAs...We acknowledge that the methodology for the facilitated HRIAs is not yet perfect; it is work in progress, and Nestlé and DIHR are jointly improving their practice in this emerging field. We welcome all feedback on Talking the Human Rights Walk and encourage other stakeholders to send us their thoughts on this document...Regarding the specific issues raised in the joint statement, please see [the full response at the link above.]

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20 December 2013

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin – Issue 11, December 2013

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Welcome to the 11th issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. To assist all those following corporate legal accountability issues, we send this bulletin to highlight key developments, new cases profiled on our site, updates to existing profiles, and other news. Our Corporate Legal Accountability Portal is an online information hub providing resources for non- lawyers as well as lawyers – including victims, advocates, NGOs, businesspeople, lawyers bringing lawsuits against companies and lawyers defending companies. The portal provides impartial, concise information about lawsuits against companies in which human rights abuses are alleged – its aim is to demystify these lawsuits. Each case profile includes materials from both the plaintiffs and defendants, to the extent they are available...[Refers to African Rainbow Minerals, Alstom, Amesys (part of Bull), AngloGold Ashanti, Argor-Heraeus, BP, Bull, CACI, Chevron, Davao Fruits, Ford, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, HudBay Minerals, IBM, Kaweri (part of Neumann Gruppe), Koh Kong Sugar, Lapanday Agricultural Development, Nestlé, Neumann Gruppe, Texaco (part of Chevron), Titan Corporation (now L-3 Services, part of L-3 Communications), Veolia Environnement, Veolia Transport (part of Veolia Environnement)]

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19 December 2013

Organizations denounce Nestlé’s new human rights impact assessment as a public relations stunt

Author: Blue Planet Project, FIVAS, Food & Water Watch, and Public Services International

Nestlé’s new human rights assessment, launched at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights last week, is full of holes say labour and civil society organizations...Nestlé’s “Creating Shared Value” program is touted in the report as a strategy to address the needs of impacted communities, yet...there are significant discrepancies between Nestlé’s so-called values and its actual practice...The parameters for the assessment were set by Nestlé and involved a limited set of criteria that overlooked key areas including the human right to water...[In a] village in Pakistan...local leaders and members of the community have accused Nestlé of draining groundwater resources to produce its Pure Life bottled water...[I]n 2009 a number of labour and human rights organizations launched a campaign demanding that Nestlé be expelled from the UN Global Compact for trade-union busting and child labour in Colombia...The organizations also denounce the growing role of Nestlé in shaping public policy through its involvement in multi-stakeholder bodies...“Given the selective focus, limited scope and glaring omissions, the report cannot be seen as anything more than the company’s latest public relations stunt,” says Jorgen Magdahl of the Norwegian NGO FIVAS.

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Author: ats/Newsnet

Le Tribunal cantonal répète en gros les arguments du Ministère public vaudois. Le procureur avait estimé en mai dernier que l'infraction était prescrite…«Ce n'est pas acceptable, d'où notre recours au TF [Tribunal Fédéral]», a relevé M. Bosonnet [avocat et représentant en Suisse des plaignants] qui estime que la justice essaie de couvrir Nestlé…ll n'est pas seulement question d'homicide par négligence, mais aussi de la responsabilité organisationnelle de l'entreprise, pour laquelle il n'y a pas de prescription, a-t-il noté…Dès le dépôt de la plainte, Nestlé a toujours catégoriquement rejeté les accusations…Contactée mercredi soir par l'ats, la multinationale basée à Vevey n'a pas souhaité faire de nouveau commentaire.

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