Chiquita lawsuits (re Colombia)

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In March 2007, Chiquita admitted that it made payments from 1997 to 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by its acronym in Spanish, AUC), a paramilitary organization that the US Government had designated a terrorist group.  Chiquita settled a criminal complaint by the US Government at that time and agreed to pay a $25 million fine.

In July 2007, a group of Colombians filed a lawsuit against Chiquita under the Alien Tort Claims Act in US federal court in New Jersey.  The plaintiffs are family members of trade unionists, banana workers, political organisers, social activists and others in Colombia who were targeted and killed by paramilitaries during the 1990s through 2004.  The plaintiffs contend that the funds that Chiquita paid to Colombian paramilitary organizations during this period made the company complicit in extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Chiquita’s Colombian banana-growing region.

The families of other people, who had also allegedly been killed by Colombian paramilitary groups that had received payments from Chiquita, brought similar lawsuits against Chiquita in other US federal courts:

- in the District of Columbia, filed on 7 June 2007
- in Florida, filed in June 2007
- in New York, filed on 14 November 2007

In February 2008, the US Multidistrict Litigation Panel consolidated these lawsuits into one to be tried in federal court in Florida.

In its annual report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in February 2008, Chiquita stated: “The company believes the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit and is defending itself vigorously against the lawsuits.”

On 11 March 2008, a new federal lawsuit was filed in New York against Chiquita by the families of five missionaries allegedly slain by fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known by its acronym in Spanish, FARC).  After Chiquita entered the plea agreement with the US government regarding payments to the AUC, it later admitted that it had also made payments to FARC.  The plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that the payments Chiquita made to FARC (as well as material support provided by the company) supported acts of terrorism which subsequently contributed to the deaths of the five missionaries.  On 4 February 2010, District Judge Kenneth Marra let stand five of the lawsuit's claims while dismissing 19.  The US Government has designated FARC as a terrorist group. 

In March 2011, two new lawsuits against Chiquita were filed in Washington on behalf of families of 931 people, who were allegedly killed by the FARC and AUC between 1990 and 2004.  In response to the filings, Chiquita commented that the company and its employees were targeted by the groups and therefore it should not be held responsible for the crimes committed by the FARC and AUC. 

In April 2011, National Security Archive (NSA), an independent researcher group, published internal Chiquita documents, obtained from the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act.  These documents appear to contradict the company’s contention that its payments to the FARC and AUC amounted to "protection" money and that Chiquita never received any actual services in exchange for them.  In July 2015 the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to release over 9000 pages of documents filed by Chiquita in relation to paramilitary payments.  NSA had filed a freedom of information request with the SEC for these documents.

In May 2011, the new lawsuits were consolidated with other suits against the company into one, involving allegations of over 4000 killings of Colombian nationals.  On 3 June 2011, the court denied Chiquita’s motion to dismiss all claims brought under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act.  District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that the plaintiffs may proceed with their claims against Chiquita alleging torture, extrajudicial killings, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The judge rejected Chiquita’s argument that the case should be dismissed because it could have foreign policy implications.  On 27 March 2012, the judge ruled that the court could consider the plaintiffs' legal claims which are based on Colombian law.   Chiquita appealed this decision, and on 24 July 2014 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.  On 14 August 2014, the plaintiffs filed a petition with the court of appeals asking it to rehear the case.  In April 2015, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In June 2016, a US Judge allowed the Colombian victims of paramilitary killings to move forward with their lawsuit against former Chiquita executives under the Torture Victim Protection Act.

- US Appeals Court orders SEC to release Chiquita's Colombian paramilitary payment files, Fresh Fruit Portal, 23 Jul 2015
- U.S. top court rejects Colombian Chiquita human rights suit, Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 20 Apr
- Chiquita wins dismissal of U.S. lawsuits over Colombian abuses, Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 24 Jul 2014
- [radio] Lawsuit alleges Chiquita responsible for the deaths of thousands of Colombian civilians - Part 1: The plaintiffs, Worldview, 21 Jul 2011
- [radio] Lawsuit alleges Chiquita responsible for the deaths of thousands of Colombian civilians - Part 2: The defense, Worldview, 21 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Federal Court rejects Chiquita's effort to dismiss human rights class-action suit, EarthRights International, Cohen Milstein, 3 Jun 2011
- Court Documents Reveal Chiquita Paid for Security, Jim Lobe, Aprille Muscara, IPS, 7 Apr 2011
- Families Sue Chiquita in Deaths of 5 Men, Carmen Gentile, New York Times, 17 Mar 2008
- Victims of Colombian Conflict Sue Chiquita Brands, Associated Press, 15 Nov 2007
- The Banana War, Kevin Gray, Portfolio.com, 17 Sep 2007
- Chiquita: $25M fine for terror payments, CNN.com, 11 Sep 2007
- Chiquita sued over paramilitary deaths in Colombia, Reuters, 14 Jun 2007
- Lawsuit accuses U.S. banana company Chiquita of sponsoring Colombian terrorism, Associated Press, 7 Jun 2007

Chiquita:
- Chiquita Statement on Agreement with U.S. Department of Justice, 14 Mar 2007

US Department of Justice:
- Chiquita Brands International Pleads Guilty to Making Payments to a Designated Terrorist Organization And Agrees to Pay $25 Million Fine, 19 Mar 2007

Terry Collingworth [plaintiffs’ counsel]:
- Press Release: Eleventh Circuit decision in Chiquita Alien Tort Status Litigation, 30 Jul 2014
Earthrights International [plaintiffs’ counsel]:
- Doe v. Chiquita Brands International, Case summary
Earthrights International, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll:
- Victims of Colombian Atrocities Win Right to Sue Chiquita for Complicity Under Colombian Law, 27 Mar 2012

- [PDF] In re: Chiquita Brands International, Inc. Alien Tort Statute Litigation - Petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc, 14 Aug 2014
- [PDF] Cardona, Doe, Montes, et al. v. Chiquita Brands International - Opinion, US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, 24 Jul 2014
- [PDF] Doe v. Chiquita Brands International - Class Action Complaint for Damages, 18 Jul 2007 [filed in US District Court for the District of New Jersey]
- United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation: [PDF] In re: Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Alien Tort Statute and Shareholders Derivative Litigation - Transfer Order, 20 Feb 2008
- [PDF] Does 1-976 v Chiquita Brands International, Inc. - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 9 Mar 2010
- [PDF] Does 1-254 v Chiquita Brands International, Inc. - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 24 Mar 2011
- [PDF] Does 1-677 v Chiquita Brands International, Inc. - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 24 Mar 2011

- In re Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Alien Tort Statute and Shareholder Derivative Litigation:

- [PDF] Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration, 27 Mar 2012
- [PDF] Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Consolidated Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaints, 9 Apr 2010 
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' Supplemental Response in Opposition to Defendant's Consolidated Motion to Dismiss the Complaints, 21 May 2010 
- [PDF] Plaintiff Does 1-976' Supplemental Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, 21 May 2010 
- [PDF] Valencia Plaintiffs' Separate Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint, 21 May 2010
- [PDF] Does 1 through 254 v Chiquita Brands International - Complaint [filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia], 24 Mar 2011
- [PDF] Order of the Court denying Chiquita's motion to dismiss claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act, 3 Jun 2011

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Article
2 June 2016

Chiquita Executives Must Face Claims Over Colombian Torture

Author: David Voreacos, Bloomberg

Executives at Chiquita Brands International Inc., the banana label owner that pleaded guilty in 2007 to making payments to Colombian paramilitary groups, must face U.S. lawsuits claiming they played a role in torture, a judge ruled.

Relatives of Colombian victims can pursue claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act…The plaintiffs claim Chiquita paid $1.7 million from 1995 to 2004 to the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, which murdered supporters of anti-government guerilla groups.

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Article
2 June 2016

Victims of Colombian Death Squads Can Move Forward With Case Against Former Chiquita Executives

Author: EarthRights International (USA)

In a victory for accountability for corporate crimes, families of those murdered by Colombian paramilitary death squads can proceed with a U.S. federal lawsuit against former Chiquita executives. Yesterday, Judge Kenneth Marra of the Southern District of Florida ruled that, according to the plaintiffs’ allegations, “profits took priority over basic human welfare” in the banana company executives’ decision to finance the illegal death squads, despite knowing that this would advance the paramilitaries’ murderous campaign...The class-action lawsuit, Doe v. Chiquita, alleges that over the course of several years, Chiquita and its executives – including former CEOs, General Counsels and General Managers – made or approved illegal payments to the AUC which totaled approximately $1.7 million, all the while knowing full well that they were funding a designated terrorist organization.

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Article
23 July 2015

U.S. Appeals Court orders SEC to release Chiquita’s Colombian paramilitary payment files

Author: Fresh Fruit Portal

Produce giant Chiquita Brands International has suffered a potential setback in ongoing litigation surrounding its payments to paramilitary forces in Colombia, in what freedom of information advocates have hailed as a “an important victory for transparency and corporate accountability”. Since 2008, the multinational has sought to prevent the release of 9,257 pages of records submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as part of an investigation into illegal payments to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The information was requested by the Washington D.C.-based National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as part of a documentation project into U.S.-Colombian links involving narcotics trafficking, drug cartels and paramilitary groups. Chiquita asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of the Columbia Circuit to deny the archive’s request, claiming it would negatively impact the company in multi-district litigation in Florida.  [Full text of court's opinion is here.]

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Author: Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo" y Corporación Jurídica Libertad

"Pronunciamiento conjunto Cajar - CJL: Crímenes de Chiquita Brands siguen impunes en Colombia" 22 de junio de 2015

El Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” -CAJAR-, y la Corporación Jurídica Libertad, CJL, ponen en conocimiento de la opinion pública que...Desde hace cerca de 10 años, se ha solicitado a la justicia colombiana que active los mecanismos que posee para la superación de la impunidad...Se ha pedido también al gobierno de Colombia que...solicite a los Estados Unidos la colaboración que se requiere para avance del mismo con el suministro de información relevante e incluso la activación del mecanismos de extradición...A pesar de las pruebas...no ha habido hasta el momento sanción penal efectiva contra los responsables...[E]l derecho de las víctimas de acceder a la justicia se disuelve en cambios de fiscales y dilaciones...[L]as víctimas del paramilitarismo...auspiciado por dichas empresas bananeras, siguen sufriendo los atropellos de esos grupos...Hacemos un llamado al Estado colombiano en su conjunto para que...Atienda su obligación de debida diligencia en el avance de...investigaciones...Desarrollar mecanismos reales y vinculantes de control a las empresas...

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Author: La República (Colombia)

“Corte Suprema de EE.UU. rechaza demanda de grupos de derechos humanos de Colombia"– 20 de abril de 2015

Cavendish banana Maracaibo

La compañía Chiquita Brands International Inc no tendrá que responder a las demandas presentadas en Estados Unidos por más de 4.000 colombianos que acusan a la productora de frutas de violaciones a los derechos humanos, después que la Corte Suprema de Justicia estadounidense rechazó el lunes asumir el caso. La corte rechazó la apelación presentada por los demandantes, dejando intacto un fallo de julio del 2014 de la Duodécima Corte Estadounidense de Distrito de Apelaciones en Miami.  El tribunal de apelaciones dijo que las cortes  estadounidenses no tenían autoridad para escuchar dos casos relacionados porque todos los hechos de conducta relevantes se llevaron a cabo fuera de Estados Unidos.

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Article
20 April 2015

EarthRights Intl. expresses dismay at US Supreme Court's refusal to hear appeal in Alien Tort lawsuit against Chiquita

Author: EarthRights International

"Supreme Court Allows U.S. Corporation to Finance Terrorism Without Accountability" 20 Apr 2015

The United States Supreme Court announced today that it will not hear Cardona v. Chiquita Brands International, a lawsuit on behalf of victims of terrorism and crimes against humanity in Colombia. This landmark case could have decided whether U.S. courts can hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses they commit abroad under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS)…By declining to hear the case, the Supreme Court has created yet another obstacle in the path of victims seeking remedies for abusive corporate actions abroad, and allows a U.S. corporation to get away with financing terrorism without accountability to its victims in U.S. courts.

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Article
20 April 2015

U.S. top court rejects Colombian Chiquita human rights suit

Author: Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

Chiquita Brands International Inc will not have to face U.S. lawsuits by more than 4,000 Colombians accusing the fruit company of human rights violations after the U.S. Supreme Court…declined to take up the case. The court rejected an appeal filed by the plaintiffs, leaving intact a July 2014 ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals…The appeals court said U.S. courts did not have the authority to hear the two related cases because all the relevant conduct occurred outside the United States…The Chiquita matter was the first human rights case of its type to reach the top court since an April 2013 ruling that made it harder for plaintiffs to sue corporations in U.S. courts for alleged abuses that take place overseas.

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Article
8 January 2015

Colombians Ask US Supreme Court to Reverse Chiquita Decision

Author: Associated Press

Attorneys for thousands of Colombians are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision tossing out their lawsuits against Chiquita Brands International over payments made to a right-wing paramilitary group. The lawyers said Wednesday a petition seeking review was filed with the high court. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled against the estimated 4,000 Colombians, concluding the connection wasn't close enough between Chiquita and violence in Colombia's civil war. Chiquita previously pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges and paid a $25 million fine stemming from its payments to the AUC, the Spanish acronym for the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Still, Chiquita has insisted it was the victim of extortion and forced to pay the AUC. The lawsuits were filed in South Florida federal court.

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Article
7 January 2015

Chiquita Plaintiffs Take Alien Tort Case to High Court [Subscription required]

Author: Scott Flaherty, Litigation Daily (USA)

Months after a federal appeals court rejected efforts to hold Chiquita…liable for facilitating war crimes in Colombia, [a lawyer has] filed a Supreme Court petition on behalf of thousands of Colombians who allege their relatives were murdered by the United Self-Defense Forces…, or…a paramilitary group that Chiquita has admitted to supporting. The…petition…challenges a July decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which found that Chiquita's alleged conduct didn't have enough connection to the U.S…."The Chiquita case clearly meets the test set out in Kiobel," [the plaintiff’s lawyers] said…."We have a U.S. corporation making decisions from the [U.S.] to finance terrorism in violation of U.S. law, and our nation has a strong interest in addressing this ..."…"Much as plaintiffs would like to portray it differently, there is no denying that their complaints assert claims for alleged violence in Colombia, by Colombians, against Colombians," said [Chiquita’s lawyers]… "The Eleventh Circuit's decision that the ATS does not provide jurisdiction for such claims is entirely consistent with Kiobel." With the high court appeal, the plaintiffs in the Chiquita case are looking to put the brakes on the federal courts' recent narrowing of the Alien Tort Statute's scope and its application to overseas conduct.

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Article
7 January 2015

Families of Victims Petition U.S. Supreme Court to Hold Chiquita Accountable

Author: EarthRights International

EarthRights International (ERI) and…co-counsel filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of…[Colombian]…families, urging the Court to consider the case against… Chiquita for financing paramilitary death squads in Colombia. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, despite the fact that Chiquita is a U.S. company that made decisions in the U.S. to finance the paramilitaries…the victims’ claims under the…Alien Tort Statute…lacked sufficient connection to the U.S…The petition to the...Supreme Court seeks to reverse that decision. From 1997-2004, the AUC used Chiquita’s financial support to spread terror in the banana-growing region of Urabá… it killed thousands of villagers, labor leaders, and community organizers, who were suspected of favoring leftist guerrillas or making trouble for…plantation owners…ERI Legal Director…[says:] “…local authorities no longer have the power to hold Chiquita accountable because the company has sold all its interests and assets in Colombia. Where else should…victims go for justice?”...

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