Although recent court decisions have limited plaintiffs pursuing related cases, Ford and IBM are now again in lawsuits about apartheid era human rights issues.
According to the latest lawsuit, the two companies allegedly encouraged human rights abuses based on race in South Africa during the apartheid-era. US District Judge Shira Scheindlin from Manhattan is now reviving a lawsuit that ended 12 years ago, accepting a group-s argument over the use of a 1789 law.
According to that act, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows non-US citizens enter local cases over supposed violations of international law – with the judge acknowledging the corporations may be held liable.
“No principle of domestic or international law supports the conclusion that the norms enforceable through the ATS … apply only to natural persons and not to corporations,” Scheindlin wrote.
“Obviously we’re thrilled,” said Diane Sammons, a partner at Nagel Rice law firm in Roseland, New Jersey, representing some plaintiffs. “Judge Scheindlin is not taking the word of the defendants that corporations are not liable for human rights abuses under the ATS.”
According to the plaintiffs, the companies during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s aided the former apartheid government to keep abusing people based on race. The companies could be held accountable because they made military vehicles and computers for South African security forces.