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With the approval of a federal judge in Florida on Friday, the Chiquita terrorism lawsuit will move forward, permitting thousands of Colombians to sue the banana grower for aiding in state-sponsored human rights violations.
The lawsuit stems from $1.7 million in payments Chiquita made to the AUC, a Colombian paramilitary group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by U.S. officials.
As a paramilitary organization, the AUC has been responsible for the murder and torture of thousands of Colombians, but has specifically targeted labor and leftists activists in the country's banana growing region, according to Slate.
Chiquita admitted that it made payments to the AUC, and paid a $25 million fine at the end of a 2007 criminal investigation by the Justice Department; but under the Alien Tort Act and the Torture Victim Prevention Act, foreign citizens are permitted to seek compensation in U.S. courts for human rights violations committed abroad.
Because Chiquita is a U.S. corporation, it cannot argue that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over its actions, meaning that it has no choice but to litigate and pay any judgment that may be awarded.
However, it may not be so easy for the Colombian torture victims to win the Chiquita terrorism lawsuit.
The judge ruled that the plaintiffs must show that Chiquita paid the AUC with the intention that the group use the funds to commit human rights violations, reports Reuters. And though Slate notes that there are reports of a handwritten note that says the payments were "the cost of doing business in Colombia," such a showing will be incredibly difficult to make.
Even so, the Chiquita terrorism lawsuit is sure to be an interesting case, if not for the vindication of AUC torture victims, for a detailed look into how U.S. companies interact with terrorists abroad.