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Big Victory for Plaintiffs in Chiquita Paramilitary Suit

June 3, 2011

The handwritten notes of Chiquita Senior Counsel Robert Thomas indicate awareness that payments to paramilitary front company "disguised the real purpose of providing security."

A federal judge today gave a big boost to thousands of plaintiffs in a human rights lawsuit brought against banana giant Chiquita Brands International for its admitted support of a Colombian terrorist organization, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

In a 95-page decision, Judge Kenneth Marra refused to grant Chiquita’s motion to dismiss claims stemming from acts of “torture, extrajudicial killings, war crimes, and crimes against humanity” committed by the AUC.  Plaintiffs are suing the company under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act.

Marra’s finding that “Chiquita assisted the AUC with the intent that the AUC commit torture and killing in the banana-growing regions” is supported by evidence found among the Chiquita Papers, a declassified trove of more than 5,500 pages of Chiquita’s own internal documents recently published by the National Security Archive.  The documents were released by the U.S. Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Chiquita Papers show that Chiquita knowingly paid the AUC paramilitaries to provide critical security services for its operations, and detail the company’s efforts to cover up the transactions.  These and other declassified records have been used in support of the lawsuit by Earth Rights International on behalf of hundreds of Colombian victims of AUC violence.

For more on the Chiquita Papers, check out our original posting from April 7, 2011, which includes links to radio interviews and press coverage in the U.S., Colombia, and around Latin America.  For another interesting take on the Chiquita Papers, check out human rights attorney Dan Kovalik’s recent article for the Huffington Post.  And be sure to check out today’s press release from Earth Rights International.

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