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Ford lawsuit (re Argentina)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Published on: 18 February 2014

In October 2002, a federal prosecutor in Argentina filed a criminal complaint against the executives of Ford Motor Argentina, alleging that the company collaborated with the 1976-83 military dictatorship.  The complaint accused Ford of helping the regime in political repression, abductions and mistreatment of Ford’s workers and union organisers.  These abuses allegedly took place on the company’s premises.  Argentina’s Third Federal Court initiated the criminal investigation in November 2002.  Following this investigation, in December 2006, the public prosecutor charged that the military operated a detention centre within Ford’s factory complex and that company officials helped Argentinean officials to kidnap 25 company employees and trade union leaders who were later illegally detained and tortured.  In response to the charges, Ford’s spokesman said that the company asked for army protection because it was targeted by guerrillas but denied that this led to the establishment of a “detention centre”. 

On 23 January 2004, another lawsuit was filed on behalf of Argentine workers and union organisers against Ford Motor and Ford Motor Argentina in the US District Court in Los Angeles.  The plaintiffs alleged that Ford managers conspired with the military regime in the commission of human rights violations in a detention centre run from Ford’s factory in Buenos Aires.  The suit charged that 25 former Ford employees were illegally detained and tortured, and at least one of them “disappeared”.  The plaintiffs also alleged that the company provided information about its workers to the military and was therefore complicit in their mistreatment and illegal detention.  The plaintiffs claimed that they had suffered severe and irreparable physical and emotional injuries, including depression, loss of sight and loss of reproductive function.  The US case stalled in late 2004 when a legal precedent set in an unrelated case forced the plaintiffs to withdraw their claim from US courts until it had first been heard in Argentina - a route blocked at the time by Argentine amnesty laws.  In June 2005, Argentina’s Supreme Court struck down the amnesty laws, reopening the possibility of human rights litigation in Argentina for abuses committed during the dictatorship period.

Following Argentina’s Supreme Court decision, in February 2006, a similar lawsuit was filed on behalf of the former workers and union organizers against Ford Argentina in Argentina’s 35th Civil Court.  Aside from the allegations already raised in the US suit, the plaintiffs accuse Ford of using violence to get rid of trade union activity at its factory in Buenos Aires.  In May 2013 three former Ford executives were indicted for crimes against humanity.  The three men are accused of giving names, ID numbers, pictures and home addresses to security forces who hauled two dozen union workers off the floor of Ford's factory in suburban Buenos Aires to be tortured and interrogated and then sent to military prisons. 

- "Ex-Ford execs charged in Argentine tortures", AP, 21 May 2013
- [ES] “Riveros y la Ford” (“Riveros and Ford”), Página/12, 1 Aug 2007
- [ES] “Automotrices y dictadura” (“Automobile companies and dictatorship”), Página/12, 21 Dec 2006
- [DOC] “The Case against Ford”, Karen Robert, 3 Jun 2006
- [ES] “Historia de los secuestros” (“A story of kidnappings”), Página/12, 26 Feb 2006
- [ES] “La alianza de capital y fierros” (“The partnership between company and military”), Página/12, 26 Feb 2006
- “Ford sued over Argentine abuses”, BBC, 24 Feb 2006
- [ES] “Demandan a la Ford por el secuestro de gremialistas durante la dictadura” (“Ford is sued in relation with the kidnappings of union workers during the dictatorship”), Página/12, 24 Feb 2006
- [ES] “Víctimas de la dictadura argentina acusan a Ford de "terrorismo empresarial"” (“Victims of the Argentinian dictatorship accuse Ford of “corporate terrorism””), La Jornada, 23 Feb 2006
- [ES] “Denuncian a Ford por torturas y desaparición de obreros durante la dictadura argentina” (“Ford is accused of torture and the enforced disappearance of workers during the Argentinian dictatorship”), El Mundo, 26 Jan 2004
- “Ford Motor is Linked to Argentina's 'Dirty War'”, Larry Rother, New York Times, 27 Nov 2002

- [DOC] Rejoinder to Ford’s response to allegations of involvement in abuses during the military dictatorship (1976-1983), Tomás Ojea Quintana , 20 Apr 2007
- [ES] [DOC] Respuesta a Ford sobre la supuesta participación de la empresa en abusos de derechos humanos durante la dictadura militar en Argentina, Tomás Ojea Quintana , 20 Apr 2007
- [DOC] Statement on allegations of involvement in abuses, Ford, 8 Mar 2007 
- [ES] [DOC] Declaración de los demandantes en el caso criminal contra operarios de Ford (Plaintiffs’ declaration in the criminal case against Ford), Sep 2006

- [ES] [PDF] Causa nro. 4012/3, 20 May 2013 [indictment of the 3 former Ford executives]

Related companies: Ford