Jul 30 2007

U.S. Based Company Cleared of War Crimes in Colombia

Feature Stories | Published 30 Jul 2007, 9:36 am | Comments Off on U.S. Based Company Cleared of War Crimes in Colombia -

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murdered union leadersGUEST: Daniel Kovalick, an attorney with United Steelworkers

Last Thursday, jurors in a civil trial acquitted Alabama based coal company, Drummond Incorporated, of war crimes related to the 2001 killings of three Colombian union leaders. The trial against Drummond was the first ever to utilize the Alien Torts Claim Act, originally passed in 1789, against a US-based corporation. The jury in the case decided that Drummond did not finance the killings and was not liable for their deaths. According to affidavits in the case, witnesses claimed to have seen Drummond’s Colombian chief executive hand over large sums of money to paramilitary commanders in exchange for the murders of the union leaders. Prior to the jury decision, Edwin Guzman, a former member of the Colombian paramilitary testified before a congressional panel that Drummond is just one of several U.S. based multinationals that has hired the services of paramilitaries. Drummond responded to the allegations by denying any involvement and even claimed that key witnesses in the case were being paid by the United Steelworkers Union. Had the jury decided in favor of the dead union leader’s families, a landmark precedent would have been set against U.S. corporations in human rights violation cases. Lawyers for the plaintiffs’ plan to appeal the decision. Nearly 90 percent of all trade union leaders killed worldwide have been killed in Colombia.

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