Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bailing out an alleged SA apartheid enabler?

Talk of a possible bankruptcy filing by General Motors has been rampant in the US and Canada lately. And this news seems to provide a huge nudge in that direction as GM will now face increasing legal fees and settlement payouts if these South African apartheid victims win their case.

US court allows apartheid claims

A United States judge has ruled that lawsuits can go ahead against several companies accused of helping South Africa's apartheid-era government.

IBM, Ford and General Motors are among those corporations now expected to face demands for damages from thousands of apartheid's victims.

They argue that the firms supplied equipment used by the South African security forces to suppress dissent.

The companies affected have not yet responded to the judge's ruling.

'Wilful blindness'

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York dismissed complaints against several companies but said plaintiffs could proceed with lawsuits against IBM, Daimler, Ford, General Motors and Rheinmetall Group, the Swiss parent of an armaments maker.

"Corporate defendants accused of merely doing business with the apartheid government of South Africa have been dismissed," she said.

The plaintiffs argue that the car manufacturers knew their vehicles would be used by South African forces to suppress dissent. They also say that computer companies knew their products were being used to help strip black South Africans of their rights.

Can we as citizens actually be comfortable knowing that part of the GM bailout money is going to defend these allegations?


The US and South African governments supported the companies' efforts to get the complaints dismissed.

They argue that the legal action is damaging to international relations and may threaten South Africa's economic development.

Weak, weak excuses in defense of horrendous human rights violations. And can you imagine how many heads will explode when/if the Obama administration publicly stands behind these companies? How will his supporters possibly defend that?

Scheinlin dismissed a number of claims against several of the companies and made the following rulings on the Ntsebeza and Khulumani cases. The judge:

• found the plaintiffs in Ntsebeza adequately pleaded that Daimler, Ford and General Motors aided and abetted apartheid, torture, extrajudicial killing and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment -- in part because their security personnel were "intimately involved" with the torture and inhuman treatment of several plaintiffs and also because the companies provided the military equipment and trucks used by the South African Defense Forces and the special branch for attacks on protesting citizens and activists;

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