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.  In November 2016, a US district judge allowed a class action lawsuit against the company to move forward.  The court rejected the company's arguments that the case should not be heard in the US, ruling that litigation in Colombia would pose a risk to plaintiffs due to the threat of ongoing paramilitary violence in the area.  

In March 2017, over 200 relatives of people killed by the AUC filed a class action complaint in Florida against Chiquita executives alleging that they made payments to the AUC and allowed the AUC to use Chiquita’s private shipping ports to move arms and drugs, therefore, intending to benefit from the AUC’s systematic killings of civilians to prevent work stoppages on banana plantations.

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- Claim against Chiquita for funding Colombian death squads to go to trial in U.S.The Wisconsin Gazette, 30 Nov 2016
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

International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs’ counsel]:
Victory in Chiquita Case as Florida Federal Judge Orders Case to Proceed in US Courts (English/Spanish), 2 Dec 2016
- 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

- Class action complaint for damages against Cyrus Friedheim and Charles Keiser, 11 Mar 2017
Order Denying in Part Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss, 29 Nov 2016
[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
20 March 2017

Relatives of Colombians killed by paramilitary groups file complaint in US alleging that Chiquita executives committed crimes against humanity

Author: Alex Pickett, Courthouse News (USA)

"Families Blame Banana Execs for Killings", 15 Mar 2017

...In a complaint filed March 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, more than 200 relatives of the slain claim nothing short of “a campaign of terror” was carried out by paramilitary groups in Colombia’s Uraba region to maintain control of vast banana plantations owned by Chiquita.  The plaintiffs...claim that former Chiquita CEO Cyrus Freidheim and manager Charles Keiser violated U.S., Colombian and international laws against torture, extrajudicial killing and other “crimes against humanity” by directing the activity.  According to the 155-page complaint, Chiquita made regular monthly payments to security forces controlled by the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia, or AUC, totaling more than $1.7 million...Even after the United States designated the AUC as a terrorist organization, the families say, Chiquita continued to fund them...In addition to paying the AUC, the complaint alleges Chiquita allowed drugs and arms to move through its private port...Last November, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra of West Palm Beach rejected the banana company’s request to hear the case in Colombia, citing security risks to the plaintiffs. Earlier last year, Marra ruled another lawsuit against former Chiquita executives could move forward...

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Article
11 March 2017

Class action complaint for damages against Cyrus Friedheim and Charles Keiser

Author: Leslie Kroeger, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC

[Full text of complaint]

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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 讓跨國公司侵犯人權行為的受害者獲得司法救濟", 2013年2月

“獲得司法救濟項目”(A2JR)設立的目的是確認並分析美國、加拿大和歐洲在該領域存在的阻礙…在開發該報告過程中我們進行了詳盡的現狀分析,結論顯示國家普遍沒有承擔為企業境外侵權行為的受害者提供有效司法救濟的義務。受害者在尋求救濟時仍然面臨著眾多的阻礙,有時還出現尋求救濟的途徑被完全堵死的情況。雖然相關國家在立法、法庭程序、人權保護和法律傳統方面存在著差異,但在所有司法制度下都存在著阻礙受害者尋求救助的情況。在一些案例中,這些阻礙被成功地克服,其原因往往是:律師採用了全新的訴訟方案;受害者有足夠的耐心;有著敏銳洞察力的法官願意受理此類維權訴訟。國家必須制定強硬、一致的政策,重申受害者的人權重於企業的經濟利益。企業侵權人權行為的受害者,無論侵權行為在何地發生,都有權獲得全面、有效的司法救濟。為實現上述目標,每一個國家都應該審視司法制度中的存在障礙,並考慮採取行動加以消除,特別是考慮本報告提出的相關建議...

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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 让跨国公司侵犯人权行为的受害者获得司法救济", 2013年2月

“获得司法救济项目”(A2JR)设立的目的是确认并分析美国、加拿大和欧洲在该领域存在的阻碍…在开发该报告过程中我们进行了详尽的现状分析,结论显示国家普遍没有承担为企业境外侵权行为的受害者提供有效司法救济的义务。受害者在寻求救济时仍然面临着众多的阻碍,有时还出现寻求救济的途径被完全堵死的情况。虽然相关国家在立法、法庭程序、人权保护和法律传统方面存在着差异,但在所有司法制度下都存在着阻碍受害者寻求救助的情况。在一些案例中,这些阻碍被成功地克服,其原因往往是:律师采用了全新的诉讼方案;受害者有足够的耐心;有着敏锐洞察力的法官愿意受理此类维权诉讼。国家必须制定强硬、一致的政策,重申受害者的人权重于企业的经济利益。企业侵权人权行为的受害者,无论侵权行为在何地发生,都有权获得全面、有效的司法救济。为实现上述目标,每一个国家都应该审视司法制度中的存在障碍,并考虑采取行动加以消除,特别是考虑本报告提出的相关建议...

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Article
5 December 2016

What Happens In Colombia Doesn’t Stay In Colombia

Author: Katie Redford, EarthRights International on Huffington Post (USA)

Federal judge tells Chiquita it must face human rights allegations in the U.S. After years of litigating against Chiquita on behalf of Colombian villagers terrorized by Chiquita-sponsored death squads, a federal judge denied the company’s latest attempt to get rid of our case and escape justice. We will now be moving forward with discovery, to trial, and (we expect) to justice for our clients.  The legal decision is important for the farmers, workers and labor organizers who endured killings, disappearances and violence without remedy, and for those of us who have worked so hard supporting them.  Chiquita has thrown one obstacle after another in our way in order to avoid facing these villagers in court. Most recently, the banana giant argued that the case should be heard in Colombia...[T]his case sends a clear message that companies cannot escape justice in the United States by forcing victims and survivors to litigate in countries where those defenders are threatened. The judge discussed the grave and dangerous context in which human rights and environmental defenders do their work in Colombia, and cited these risks as a key factor in his determination to allow the case to proceed in the U.S...

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Article
2 December 2016

Victory in Chiquita Case as Florida Federal Judge Orders Case to Proceed in US Courts (English/Spanish)

Author: International Rights Advocates

On November 29, 2016, a federal court in Florida issued a long-awaited ruling denying Chiquita’s last effort to have the case dismissed brought by thousands of Colombian nationals who sued Chiquita for funding the AUC paramilitary units that murdered their family members.  Chiquita’s latest effort was a desperate move to have the case transferred to Colombia after almost 8 years of complex litigation in the U.S. Court.  The Florida Court agreed with the plaintiffs that it was fair to have the trial in the United States, where the Chiquita executives who made the decisions to fund the AUC for years are located.  The court stated, “The United States has a strong interest in monitoring and deterring unethical and illegal conduct of American corporations in supporting foreign terrorist organizations.”...The court’s ruling now clears the way for the families to take discovery from Chiquita, get company documents and take testimony from the Chiquita executives who put profits over human lives.  Lawyers for the families plan to begin immediately to get the case ready for trial.  The court’s ruling did conclude that some of the clients represented by International Rights Advocates did not have timely claims under Colombian wrongful death law.  The group’s lawyers are assessing the legal options, including an appeal...

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Article
30 November 2016

Claim against Chiquita for funding Colombian death squads to go to trial in U.S.

Author: The Wisconsin Gazette (USA)

After almost a decade of litigation, victims of Colombian paramilitary death squads funded by Chiquita are moving forward in a U.S. lawsuit against the banana giant...[F]ederal judge Kenneth Marra rejected Chiquita’s argument that the case should be heard in Colombia rather than the United States...In 2007, EarthRights International and other co-counsel, filed a class action suit against Chiquita Brands International on behalf of the families of thousands of villagers, labor leaders and community organizers murdered by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a paramilitary terrorist organization.  The suit alleges that Chiquita made illegal, concealed payments to the AUC...The lawsuit also alleges that the AUC shipped arms and drugs through Chiquita’s ports and on Chiquita boats...Chiquita has pulled out of Colombia and now has no operations or assets there.  Still, Chiquita argued that it was more “convenient” to litigate in Colombia than the United States.  The court rejected this claim, finding Colombia to be an inadequate forum in light of serious security risks for plaintiffs and their lawyers...

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Article
28 November 2016

Chiquita Brands International et al. Court order denying defendants' motion to dismiss

Author: District court of the southern district of Florida (USA)

[full text of the decision]

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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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