Drummond lawsuits (re Colombia)


Balcero Giraldo, et al., Romero, et al., & Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

AUC credit flickr Silvia Andrea Moreno

In 2002, the families of three deceased Colombian labour leaders and the union they belonged to, Sintramienergética, filed suit against Drummond Company, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary Drummond Ltd. in US federal court.  The plaintiffs alleged that Drummond hired Colombian paramilitaries to kill and torture the three labour leaders in 2001.  Sintramienergética represents workers at Drummond’s coal mining operations in Colombia.  The case was brought under the US Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), US Torture Victim Protection Act and Alabama state law.  Drummond sought dismissal of the case, which the court granted as to the state law claims and one of the ATCA claims in 2003.  The court declined to dismiss the ATCA claims for extrajudicial killing and for denial of rights to associate and organise.  In March 2007, the court ruled that the case against Drummond Ltd. (the subsidiary) would go to trial, but dismissed the case against Drummond Company (the parent company).  In June of 2007, the district court judge dismissed the wrongful death claims, but the judge allowed the plaintiffs’ war crimes allegations under ATCA (summary execution) to stand.  The trial was held in July 2007.  The jury acquitted Drummond finding that the company was not liable for the deaths of the three murdered labour leaders.  On 11 December 2007, the plaintiffs filed their opening brief to appeal the lower court's verdict with the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. On 25 March 2015, the Court dismissed the lawsuit against Drummond on the basis that the harm occurred outside the US.

In March 2009, the children of three slain Colombian union leaders filed a new lawsuit in US federal court against Drummond alleging the company's complicity in the killings.  Another lawsuit was filed in US federal court against Drummond in May 2009 alleging that the company had made payments to the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by its Spanish acronym AUC) to kill labour leaders.  Drummond has denied these allegations.  While a lower court dismissed the lawsuit brought by the union leaders' children, on 3 February 2011 the federal court of appeals reversed this dismissal and remanded the case to the lower court.  The court of appeals found that the children did have standing to pursue their claims against Drummond and remanded their previously dismissed claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act for further proceedings at the trial court level.  On 25 July 2013 the district court judge dismissed the case against Drummond finding that the court no longer had jurisdiction to hear the case, citing the US Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Shell. On 23 September 2014, a US federal appeals court affirmed a lower court’s order from 2012 to dismiss the lawsuit against Drummond on the basis that the “allegations and evidence…do not show conduct focused in the United States.”

In February 2013 a former contractor for Drummond was sentenced by a Colombian court to 38 years in prison for organizing the killing of two labour leaders in 2001.  The judge ordered prosecutors to investigate Drummond’s president and several former employees to determine whether they had a role in the killings. Consequently, in May 2015, a former executive of Drummond was charged with the murder of two trade unionists, after former paramilitaries claimed he took part in the murders ordered by the company. This case is now to be decided by Colombia’s Courts of Justice.

- Drummond Cleared on Death Squad Murders, Jack Bouboushian, Courthosue News, 26 Mar 2015
- War crimes lawsuit against Drummond dismissed, Ryan Poe, Birmingham Business Journal, 31 Jul 2013
Colombian judge convicts ex-contractor in Drummond union leader killing, Associated Press, 6 Feb 2013
- Mining Company Faces Suit Over Union Killings, Kevin Duvall, 4 Feb 2011
- Suit claims Ala. coal firm funded Colombian terror, Bob Johnson, AP, 28 May 2009
- Children Sue Ala. Company In Colombian Mine Deaths, Jay Reeves, AP, 20 Mar 2009
- Alabama Company Is Exonerated in Murders at Colombian Mine, Kyle Whitmore, New York Times, 27 Jul 2007
- Drummond case shows danger facing Colombian unions, Hugh Bronstein, Reuters, 16 Nov 2006
- US firm sued after mine union leaders' deaths, Andrew Gumbel, Independent [UK], 25 Mar 2002

Drummond Ltd.:
- Drummond does not negotiate with illegal groups; the Company emphatically rejects all charges against the company and its executives, 21 Mar 2007 [press release]
- Drummond's Colombian Operations

- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Jane Doe, et al. v. Drummond Company, 25 Mar 2015
- US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama: Balcero Giraldo, et al. v. Drummond Company - Memorandum Opinion Granting Summary Judgment, 25 Jul 2013
- Balcero Giraldo, et al. v. Drummond Company - Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, 17 Sep 2012
- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: [PDF] Locarno Baloco, et al. v. Drummond Company, Inc., 3 Feb 2011
- Romero, et al. v. Drummond, et al. - Appellants' Opening Brief, 11 Dec 2007
- Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company - Complaint, 14 Mar 2002

- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Juan Aquas Romero v. Drummond Company, 14 Mar 2007 [order unsealing certain case documents]
- US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama: Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company, 14 Apr 2003 [order dismissing certain claims, declining to dismiss claims for extrajudicial killings and denial of rights to associate & organise]


Melo et al. v. Drummond Company

On 26 February 2013, family members of 34 Colombians killed by paramilitaries filed a complaint against Drummond in the US alleging that the company had hired the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) to protect Drummond’s Colombian mine operations in Cesar Province from civilians who lived in the area.  The complaint was brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) against Drummond and several of its officers.  The plaintiffs argued that Drummond was liable for aiding, abetting, conspiring with and having a relationship with the AUC, who are accused of extrajudicial killings, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  Drummond denied the allegations and argued that the claim should be dismissed as US courts lack jurisdiction to hear the case.

On 26 April 2013, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint to the district court.  The company asked for the complaint to be dismissed.  On 15 January 2014, the court asked the parties why it should still hear the case given that in Daimler AG v. Bauman, the US Supreme Court ruled that the company’s ties with the US were not enough for the court to hear the case.  The plaintiffs concluded that all parties would benefit from the court’s assessment of the impact of Kiobel on three other similar Drummond ATS lawsuits pending, all of which could affect their claims.   On 4 February 2014, the district court stayed the case.

On 20 April 2015, after courts had decided two of the other Drummond ATS cases, the district court asked the parties to provide reasons on whether this case should be dismissed.  The plaintiffs argued that they had brought claims based on grounds other than ATS, which Kiobelwould have no impact on.  Drummond argued that all the claims should be dismissed.

On 26 January 2016, the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims based on the decisions from the other Drummond lawsuits that were dismissed.  The plaintiffs appealed.  On 27 September 2016, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part, and affirmed in part, the district court’s decision.  The appeals court said that the lower court could not summarily dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.  The court also found that corporations could not be sued under the TVPA, but that claims against Drummond’s officers could be considered.  The court also ruled that the ATS claim could be amended and refiled to meet the “touch and concern” test set by Kiobel.


Baker Botts LLP (Counsel for the defendants)
Brief of Appellees, 20 Jun 2016

International Rights Advocates (Counsel for the plaintiffs)
Melo et al. v. Drummond Company, Inc., Case information
11th Circuit Court of Appeals Issues Favorable Opinion in our case against Drummond, 27 Sep 2016
Appellants' Reply Brief, 22 Jul 2016
Appellants’ Opening Brief, 11 May 2016
First Amended Complaint, Terrence P. Collingsworth, International Rights Advocates & Eric J. Hager, Conrad & Scherer LLP, 26 Apr 2013
Plaintiff's Complaint, Thomas L. Carmichael, Carmichael Law Firm LLC, 26 Feb 2013

-  Opinion Issued on the Courts own Motion Opinion, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 27 Sep 2016


Criminal investigation against Drummond officials in Colombia

In October 2018, the Colombian Specialized Criminal Prosecutor's Office No. 247 reopened investigation against eight current and former Drummond officials over allegations of financing paramilitaries' war crimes in Colombia from 1996 to 2006. The company denied that it supported illegal armed groups in a statement and expressed willingness to cooperate with the authorities on the investigation.

- Drummond Officials Charged with Financing AUC War Crimes in Colombia, International Rights Advocates, 30 Oct 2018
- Colombia reopens probe into Alabama-based Drummond, Associated Press, Tuscaloosanews.com, 30 Oct 2018
- Colombia calls Drummond coal officials to testify on paramilitaries: source, Reuters, 30 Oct 2018
- Statement to the public opinion, Drummond, 30 Oct 2018

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Autor(a): Marcelo Saguier, National Science and Technology Research Council (CONICET) and Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO)

The linkages between corporations and human rights have been addressed…mostly as a regulatory challenge...In addition to a responsible and accountable private sector, the promotion of human rights also requires the active role of the state…[The] agenda of corporate responsibility with human rights in Latin America is also shaped by international normative processes, such as the UN Secretary-General Special Representative’s…framework. This opened the discussion of what constitutes corporate complicity with human rights and how to differentiate between public and private responsibilities…However, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises provide an instrument of accountability that has been used by claimants seeking to redress corporate abuses…[refers to Nidera, Nestlé, Drummond, Chiquita, DaimlerChrysler]

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1 January 2012

[PDF] "La responsabilidad de las empresas multinacionales por violaciones de los derechos humanos: práctica reciente"

Autor(a): Francisco Javier Zamora Cabot, Universidad Jaume I de Castellón

Vinculándose con diversas iniciativas de las Naciones Unidas respecto de las empresas multinacionales y los DD.HH…[el Informe…Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights]…enfatiza la obligación de…proveer el acceso a…reparación…haciéndose patente cómo los avances en los derechos internos deben acompasarse...de…mecanismos de investigación, sanción y reparación…[L]os EE.UU.…parecen encontrarse ante un punto de inflexión a este respecto…El ATCA…se aplicaba sin suscitar excesivos rechazos, hasta que empezaron a caer bajo su dominio las empresas multinacionales…[E]l caso Kiobel…podría ser...un verdadero paso atrás que debería ser corregido…[P]aso ya a presentar algunos de los casos de violaciones de los Derechos Humanos imputados a las empresas del sector y País citados…[Se refiere a Anvil Mining, Barrick Gold, Chiquita, Drummond, Hudbay Minerals, Infinito Gold, Jeppensen (part of Boeing), Pacific Rim Mining, Pfizer, Porgera (joint venture Barrick Gold, Emperor Gold Mines, Mineral Resources Enga), Rio Tinto, Shell, Talisman, Texaco (part of Chevron)]

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Autor(a): Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has visited members of the demobilized AUC [United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia] jailed in Colombia to offer them benefits in exchange for information about their former organization's ties to multinationals, particularly coal giant Drummond...[S]pecial agents Marc L. Varri and Manuel Ortega have been in Colombia for four months, questioning senior members of the AUC who are thought to have concrete evidence of payments made by U.S. multinationals to the paramilitary organization. Five out six paramilitaries are involved in the murder of three labor rights activists who were killed while working for Drummond, the coal company currently is facing a lawsuit by families of victims of paramilitary violence, allegedly ordered by Drummond's Colombia office."They are proposing we testify before a Washington prosecutor, Elisa Pottea, and in exchange they offer to arrange a 25% lowering of the sentence in Colombia, parole and the possibility to travel to the U.S. as protected witnesses with a visa for the whole family," one of the paramilitaries...says...

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1 November 2011

[PDF] Informe sobre violencia contra sindicalistas y trabajadores sindicalizados 1984 – 2011 [Colombia]

Autor(a): PNUD [Colombia]

…[El] Informe se propone: describir las características…[y la] magnitud…sobre los responsables y los móviles de dicha violencia…[Este] se ha estructurado en cinco partes, conclusión y epílogo…[3. Análisis de] las tres organizaciones con mayor número de casos…la Federación Colombiana de Educadores…la Unión Sindical Obrera…y el Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria Agrícola…[Se refiere a: Colpuertos, Ecopetrol, Occidental Petroleum, Ocensa, Chiquita Brands, Banaldex, Augura,Drummond, Industrial de Servicios y Alimentación, Indupalma, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Comestibles La Rosa, Cicolac, Fruco, Purina, Nutrinal, Diary Partners America Manufacturing, Promociones Agropecuarias Monterrey, Las Brisas, Palmas Bucarelia, Palmeras de la Costa, Palmas Oleaginosas Hipinto, Hipilandia, Palmeras del Cesar, Cementos El Cairo, Cementos Nare [ahora Mármoles y Cementos del Nare], Grupo Argos y Asociación Nacional de Industriales]

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Autor(a): Robert A. Schwinger, Thomas E. Butler All Articles, National Law Journal [USA]

A number of recent appellate decisions have reached conflicting outcomes on whether liability under the Alien Tort Statute...extends to corporate entities. While the resolution of this judicial conflict will likely turn on particulars of statutory interpretation, the courts should consider in these analyses a principle...: that the courts should avoid having liability turn on artificial distinctions that look to the form of an enterprise's structure but ignore its reality. To do so, as the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, artificially distorts the market by dissuading companies from choosing those structures for their operations they consider most advantageous. Whatever the merits might be of expansive Alien Tort Statute liability in the international business context, no good purpose is served by construing that statute so that it ends up governing which business structures are used to conduct foreign operations. [refers to Exxon Mobil, Firestone, Coca-Cola, Drummond, Copperweld, Shell, DelMonte]

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26 April 2011

Minera Drummond se lava manos por crímenes en Colombia

Autor(a): Associated Press

Un ex contratista de la empresa...Drummond fue acusado por la Fiscalía como autor intelectual del asesinato hace diez años de dos sindicalistas de esa multinacional estadounidense. Jaime Blanco Maya…detenido desde septiembre...explicó...que la decisión en su contra fue tomada la semana pasada por el fiscal de la Unidad Nacional de Derechos Humanos...Según testimonios entregados a la Fiscalía por paramilitares desmovilizados, Blanco le habría pedido a...un importante jefe paramilitar...que asesinara a Locarno y Orcasita porque amenazaban con paralizar a Drummond..."En estos momentos hay un interés muy grande de la Drummond de que me condenen a mí porque ellos están montando su defensa, de un proceso civil muy grande que tienen en los Estados Unidos, sobre los hombros míos", dijo Blanco Maya...Drummond no comentó los señalamientos de Blanco y sólo reiteró que su posición "antes las cortes sobre el caso de la muerte de los sindicalistas ha sido y es una sola: Drummond es inocente".

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Autor(a): Kevin Duvall, Courthouse News Service

The 11th Circuit revived a case on Thursday against the Drummond Co. for allegedly paying militia members to kill three union leaders at its coal mine in Colombia…Their eight children filed the lawsuit. A federal judge in Northern District of Alabama dismissed the original complaint in 2007, finding that the family members lacked standing to sue…The Atlanta-based federal appeals panel…reversed the original ruling on the cause of action under the [Alien Tort Statute], stating that extrajudicial killing established a violation of international law, falling under the same jurisdiction as "torture, crimes against humanity and cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment."

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4 November 2010

Ex presidente Uribe estudia citación a declarar en corte de EE.UU. por caso Drummond [Colombia]

Autor(a): Caracol Radio [Colombia]

El abogado del ex jefe de Estado, Jaime Lombana, manifestó...que se analizan las razones por las cuales la Corte de Alabama solicitó...[la declaración de Uribe] por un caso que lleva de presuntos nexos de la multinacional Drummond con las autodefensas...Según los abogados de las víctimas...Uribe tiene información “valiosa y relevante” sobre los nexos con los paramilitares...La citación es para el caso que lleva Claudia Balcero Giraldo, una víctima del paramilitarismo colombiano, en contra de...Drummond en la corte del distrito de Columbia en Washington...El caso...lo lleva el abogado Terry Collingsworth...[que] dice..."el presidente Uribe tiene...conocimiento de la cantidad de cooperación directa entre las Fuerzas Militares y las AUC, particularmente en las áreas de la provincia del Cesar donde operaba la Drummond".

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Autor(a): Lee G. Dunst, New York Law Journal

Since the 1980s, civil plaintiffs have attempted to use the Alien Tort Claims Act to hold private corporations responsible in U.S. courts for alleged human rights violations committed abroad…[T]he Court [in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain] failed to define an "international law norm," and, as a result, many lower courts have allowed a wide latitude for foreign plaintiffs to continue filing their human rights claims under numerous theories…This "Wild West" environment of litigation under the act could be transformed, however, if the U.S. Supreme Court were to step in and grant a certiorari petition. To date, this has not happened...[Also refers to lawsuits against Bayoil, Coca Cola, Drummond, El Paso, NuCoastal, Pfizer, Rio Tinto, Shell, Talisman]

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15 July 2010

Atentado criminal contra sindicalista de la Drummond [Colombia]

Autor(a): Diario Ojo Pelao [Colombia]

Nuevamente atentaron contra directivos sindicales de Sintramienergética, organización sindical que agrupa a los trabajadores de la multinacional Drummond...Esteban Padilla...es un reconocido líder social entre los obreros carboníferos...el...14 de julio en la ciudad de Barranquilla, cuando transitaba en un carro de su propiedad fue víctima de un atentado criminal...dos sicarios en moto dispararon contra el dirigente sindical dejándolo gravemente herido, de igual manera fue herido el escolta del D.A.S que lo acompañaba...En el año 2001 murieron 5 dirigentes por crímenes de lesa humanidad...

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