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US jury holds Chiquita liable for financing Colombia paramilitaries

US jury holds Chiquita liable for financing Colombia paramilitaries

Victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia on Monday secured a landmark victory against banana giant Chiquita Brands International in a US federal court in Florida.

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1 min

A jury found the company liable for financing the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a US-designated terrorist organization known for its human rights abuses, according to EarthRights, an NGO that helped build the case.

The jury awarded the surviving family members $38.3 million in damages for the deaths of eight victims.

The eight plaintiffs in this case were the family of the victims, who include husbands and sons targeted and killed by the AUC, according to their lawyers.

“Our clients risked their lives to come forward to hold Chiquita to account, putting their faith in the United States justice system,” said Agnieszka Fryszman, one of the attorneys leading the case. 

Chiquita in 2007 confessed in a US court to having financed the AUC from 1997 to 2004, which was then designated as a foreign terrorist organization in the United States.

That designation made supporting the AUC a federal crime. 

The company has said that it was a victim of extortion when it paid the money to the group.

The plaintiffs alleged that Chiquita paid the AUC nearly $2 million, despite knowing that the group was engaged in a reign of terror.

The jury accepted the argument that the money transferred to the paramilitaries was used to commit war crimes such as homicides, kidnappings, extortion, torture and forced disappearances.

The AUC wreaked terror on the country in the 1990s as part of a bitter war against Colombian far-left guerrillas, aided at times by members of the armed forces.

The group laid down arms in 2006, confessing to crimes and agreeing to compensate victims.

Marco Simons, general counsel at EarthRights International, hailed the verdict as “a powerful message to corporations everywhere: profiting from human rights abuses will not go unpunished.” 

Simons also praised the courage of the families who prevailed against a major American company in the judicial process.


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