Multiple U.S. companies, including Coca Cola, the Drummond coal company, Chiquita banana and others have been accused in U.S. courts of financing illegal Colombian organizations, particularly right-wing paramilitaries, which committed severe human rights abuses, including assassinations, massacres and forced displacements.
But U.S. courts have consistently ruled that the alleged victims of those atrocities and their relatives could not sue in the U.S. because the relevant events took place in Colombia. The courts don't even examine the crimes themselves or the U.S. corporations' relationships with criminal groups.
|Hernán Giraldo Serna, ex-paramilitary |
leader on trial in the U.S.
A district court ruled that the family did not have standing to participate in the case, but a Washington appeals court reversed that ruling and ordered Henríquez's killing be included in the case, according to El Tiempo.
I'm no lawyer and my understanding of these issues is superficial. And this paramilitary has admitted ordering Henríquez's killing, whereas the corporations are generally only accused of financing outlaw groups which committed crimes, perhaps without even the companies' previous knowledge.
Nevertheless, Henríquez's ability to sue in the U.S. for a crime committed in Colombia seems to offer at least a glimmer of hope for other victims.
The most notorious case is probably Chiquita banana company, which in 2005 confessed to the U.S.
Victims of Colombian paramilitaries and their families filed numerous lawsuits against Chiquita in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute, but the cases were dismissed because the relevant events had taken place in Colombia.
Might this latest ruling make a difference?
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours