[JURIST] Victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia filed suit [complaint, PDF] Wednesday against Chiquita Brand International [corporate website], which has admitted to funding a right-wing paramilitary group in Colombia. In the complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website], 242 Colombians alleged that they had been seriously injured or had family members killed by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) [CDI backgrounder]. The AUC has been accused of mass killings during the Colombia guerrilla warfare movement before disarmament in 2003. The plaintiffs, who are seeking over $1 billion in damages, brought suit under a 1992 law that allows US citizens to sue for terrorist acts committed by US firms abroad. The complaint alleges that Chiquita aided and abetted in the murders and provided material support and resources to terrorists.
In February, a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit accusing Chiquita of assisting Marxist rebels who killed Colombian missionaries may go forward. The suit was brought [Palm Beach Post report] by family members of five North American missionaries who had worked for the New Tribes Mission (NTM) [mission website] in South America and were killed in separate incidents between 1995 and 1996. Chiquita admitted it had paid AUC for protection of its workers but it argued that it did not condone the killings. In 2007, Chiquita was fined $25 million [JURIST report] after it admitted to making payments of around $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004 to AUC. Following that admission, hundreds of family members of Colombians killed by FARC filed lawsuits in the US against Chiquita under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) [text]. In January, Chiquita settled [Bloomberg report] a shareholder lawsuit over the illegal payments.