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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Artículo
3 July 2007

Colombia: Uno de los lugares más peligrosos del mundo para los sindicalistas

Autor(a): Amnistía Internacional

...miles de casos de amenazas y homicidio y...una falta crónica de investigaciones y procesamientos, convierte a Colombia en uno de los lugares más peligrosos del mundo para los sindicalistas, expone Amnistía...en un nuevo informe [:]...["]Homicidios, detenciones arbitrarias y amenazas de muerte: la realidad del sindicalismo en Colombia["], [que]...destaca la existencia de un patrón de agresiones sistemáticas contra sindicalistas involucrados en disputas laborales y en campañas en contra de privatizaciones y en favor de los derechos de los trabajadores en algunas zonas donde desarrollan su actividad industrias extractivas. La organización colombiana Escuela Nacional Sindical documentó 2.245 homicidios, 3.400 amenazas y 138 desapariciones forzadas de sindicalistas entre enero de 1991 y diciembre de 2006...Amnistía...pide a las empresas con actividades en Colombia que utilicen su influencia con el gobierno colombiano para detener y prevenir los abusos contra los derechos humanos de que son víctima los sindicalistas. [incluye vínculo al informe completo y a casos que se analizan en el informe. Informe completo se refiere a Drummond, Coca-Cola, Ecopetrol, AngloGold Ashanti (Kedahda S.A.)]]

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Autor(a): Steven Dudley, Miami Herald

Edwin Guzmán, a plump, one-time Colombian army sergeant turned paramilitary foot soldier, said he is ready to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington today that his military units worked in tandem with illegal militia groups…and that a U.S. company aided the militias. The former sergeant's testimony is part of a widening probe of U.S. companies' alleged ties to right-wing militias in Colombia...[Drummond] officials have said repeatedly that the company has had no contact with the paramilitaries...Drummond [as well as Chiquita and Coca-Cola face]…civil lawsuits in U.S. courtrooms for their alleged ties to illegal armed groups in Colombia.

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Autor(a): Russell Hubbard, Birmingham News [USA]

Birmingham U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre has thrown out the wrongful death part of the civil case that was filed by the families of three union leaders who worked at Drummond's mine in Colombia… That leaves war crimes claims covered by the Alien Tort Statute as the only thing left for Drummond to defend at the July 9 trial.

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Artículo
30 April 2007

Admiten nuevo testigo en caso contra la Drummond [EE.UU.]

Autor(a): El Espectador [Colombia]

Una juez federal de Estados Unidos aceptó este lunes las declaraciones de un testigo recién descubierto en contra de la carbonífera norteamericana, por el asesinato de tres dirigentes sindicales. La Drummond Co. buscaba impedir que el jurado oyera el testimonio de Edwin Manuel Guzman, sargento retirado del Ejército, quien asegura que la empresa...estaba vinculada con el grupo paramilitar, presunto responsable del crimen de estas tres personas ocurrido en 2001, al parecer, por orden de la carbonífera...Guzmán dijo que Drummond proporcionó camiones y motocicletas a las fuerzas paramilitares que patrullaban los alrededores de la mina.

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Artículo
30 April 2007

[PDF] Relaciones peligrosas: los dilemas de los empresarios en el conflicto

Autor(a): Alexandra Guáqueta, Gerson Arias y Giovanni Mantilla, Fundación Ideas para la Paz [Colombia]

Los casos de Chiquita y Drummond han puesto sobre la mesa un tema complejo, el de los vínculos entre empresarios y grupos armados ilegales en Colombia -que no es un problema solo de las multinacionales. Evitar dichos vínculos requiere, sin embargo, mayor claridad en las reglas del juego para las empresas...Fuera de los pagos [a paramilitares y guerrilla], Chiquita estuvo involucrada en el 2001 en el tráfico de 3.400 fusiles AK-47 y municiones...[E]l caso de Drummond es parecido, solo que la demanda...no es por pagos a paramilitares per se, sino por los asesinatos en 2001 de [tres] directivos del [sindicato] Sintramienergética...Los familiares de los sindicalistas...argumentan que la Drummond, específicamente su presidente Augusto Jiménez, instigó los asesinatos....Drummond ha negado los cargos...Estos casos suscitan varias reflexiones sobre las reglas del juego para las empresas cuando se encuentran con circunstancias difíciles...¿Cuál es la responsabilidad de una empresa con la violación de derechos humanos por parte de sus contratistas de seguridad y de la Fuerza Pública que recibe su apoyo?...[Hay] la creciente aceptación de la idea que las empresas, multinacionales y domésticas, pueden y deben “hacer más” en materia de promoción y respeto de los derechos humanos...Adicionalmente, entre los expertos y comunidad de abogados se empieza a hablar ya de la “complicidad” de las empresas en la violación de derechos humanos. [se refiere a Banadex, BP, BHP Billiton, AngloAmerican, Occidental Petroleum, Chevron-Texaco, Shell y Rio Tinto]

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Autor(a): Sue Sturgis, The Institute for Southern Studies

A surprise witness has surfaced in a federal lawsuit scheduled to begin in July against a private Alabama-based coal company that allegedly colluded with a right-wing paramilitary group to murder union leaders in Colombia. Attorneys suing...Drummond Co...this week filed legal documents revealing...a new witness who claims the company supplied and directed the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia...Edwin Manuel Guzman was a sergeant in the Colombian Army...[and] served in a Colombian army unit that helped guard Drummond's coal mine and rail lines. He is prepared to testify that he saw the Birmingham-based company supply a right-wing armed outlaw group and direct its military activities...Drummond denies any involvement with illegal groups or the trade unionists' deaths.

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Autor(a): Russell Hubbard, Birmingham News [USA]

Lawyers suing Drummond Co. for the slaying of Colombian union activists said in legal documents Tuesday they have found a new witness who plans to say in court the company supported armed outlaw groups in the South American nation... Attempts to reach lawyers for Drummond, who have vigorously denied any wrongdoing by the company, were unsuccessful. Last month, Drummond released a statement saying it has never gotten involved with outlaw groups and will not settle the union-death case out of court.

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Autor(a): Jane Bussey and Steven Dudley, Miami Herald

Chiquita Brands International's recent admission that it paid off a Colombian group on the U.S. terrorist list has spotlighted a practice once hush-hush in Colombia, Washington's closest ally in Latin America. Several other U.S.-based corporations, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and the Alabama-based coal company Drummond Co., face civil lawsuits alleging their Colombian operations worked with the same group to kill several trade unionists.

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Autor(a): Sibylla Brodzinsky, Christian Science Monitor [USA]

In Colombia...the Chiquita name has recently come to symbolize the confirmation of a long-suspected relationship between multinational firms and illegal armies...Chiquita...admitted in US court last month that it paid $1.7 million to Colombia's brutal right-wing militias...The company said it did so to protect its employees...[O]fficials [in Bogotá] want to see company executives on trial...Arvind Ganesan...at...Human Rights Watch...[says:]"...[the Chiquita case] should provoke a real rethinking of security arrangements," [for firms in Colombia & other conflict areas]...At least three multinationals operating in Colombia – ...Drummond, Nestle, and Coca-Cola – have been targeted in civil lawsuits in the US that claimed these companies paid paramilitaries to kill or intimidate union workers...In 2001, more than 3,000 Central American rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition were unloaded at a Colombian port by Banadex [then owned by Chiquita] and eventually ended up in the hands of paramilitary forces, according to an investigation by the [OAS]...Chiquita spokesman Michael Mitchell...[said] 'there is no information that would lead us to believe that Banadex did anything improper.'..."It was no secret that the multinationals...paid that money," said Freddy Rendón, alias "the German," the head of a paramilitary bloc that operated in the banana region...[D]uring the time Chiquita was paying the paramilitaries, thousands of people across Colombia died at the hands of the right-wing militias...

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Autor(a): Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [USA]

As a lawyer for the United Steelworkers, the 38-year-old Mr. [Dan] Kovalik is using an obscure law [known as the Alien Tort Claims Act] passed in the 1700s to target pirate ships in order to sue American companies for alleged crimes committed overseas....Mr. Kovalik's most prominent case, against an Alabama coal company [Drummond Company] accused of being complicit in the murders of three labor union leaders, is on route to being the first...[Alien Tort Claims Act] case [against an American company] to go to trial....Drummond unilaterally denies any knowledge of or involvement in the killings, saying in a statement released last week that it "has not nor will it make any payments, agreements or transactions with illegal groups and emphatically denies that the company or any of its executives has had any involvement with the murder of the three labor union leaders." [also refers to DaimlerChrysler, ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart]

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