On June 5, 2020, PJI joined an amicus brief in the consolidated appeal known as In Re: Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Alien Tort Statute and Shareholder Derivative Litigation.
Counsel for the plaintiffs include EarthRights International, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Paul Hoffman, Arturo Carrillo, Judith Brown Chomsky, and John DeLeon.
PJI joined the brief with the Center for Justice & Accountability and international human rights scholars and practitioners with expertise in human rights litigation in U.S. federal courts and international tribunals, particularly with respect to evidentiary standards and practices used in cases involving widespread violations and atrocities. The brief argued that bedrock evidentiary principles in U.S. law direct courts to consider the totality of evidence, including circumstantial and pattern evidence, in determining whether a case can proceed to trial. The brief further argues that the District Court erred in its analysis of the evidence presented when dismissing the case before trial, performing a piecemeal analysis on admissibility rather than looking at the totality of the evidence.
We hope this intervention will help victims of the AUC’s terrorist violence, who accuse Chiquita of funding that violence, to have their day in court.
In March 2007, after an inquiry by the U.S. Justice Department, Chiquita Brands International pled guilty to knowingly providing material support to the AUC, a paramilitary organization widely known for its violent attacks on Colombian civilians and designated a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the United States government. The United States described Chiquita’s support to the AUC as “prolonged, steady, and substantial” in the August 2008 Sentencing Memorandum submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and found, after a full investigation, that “Chiquita’s money helped buy weapons and ammunition used to kill innocent victims.” Chiquita has so far done nothing to compensate the victims.
Doe v. Chiquita Brands International, No. 08-01916 (S.D. Fla.), was originally filed in New Jersey and was subsequently coordinated with other similar cases as In re Chiquita Brands International Inc. Alien Tort Statute and Shareholder Derivative Litigation in West Palm Beach, Florida. According to court documents, Chiquita provided the AUC with shipments of arms and ammunition as well as more than $1.7 million over the course of seven years in regular monthly payments, all with the knowledge that the AUC was a violent organization responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, war crimes, among other crimes. Based on official sources in Colombia, paramilitaries were responsible for killing or disappearing more than 100,000 civilians during this period, and they committed more than 10,000 acts of torture.
On June 3, 2011, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida allowed the Plaintiffs’ claims for torture, extrajudicial killing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity to continue in federal court. In 2014, Plaintiffs added claims against individual defendants under the Torture Victim Protection Act. In 2016, the court rejected the defendant’s claims that the case should be heard in Colombia rather than in the U.S.
In April 2018, as the parties engaged in active discovery, PJI Co-Director Kathy Roberts filed an expert declaration in the case. Her intervention clarified the common practice of taking voluntary depositions overseas in human rights litigation and the inapplicability of The Hague Convention to such testimony. This intervention helped clear the path for the Plaintiffs to offer and take testimony outside the United States.
On February 15, 2019, plaintiffs’ counsel filed a motion for summary judgment. Defendants also filed a motion for summary judgement on the same day. The District Court handed down its judgment dismissing the case against Chiquita and other defendants on September 5, 2019.
Learn more about the history of Chiquita and the AUC in Colombia on the EarthRights Cancel Corporate Abuse page or The Chiquita Papers at the National Security Archive. See also the Center for Justice & Accountability’s page on the role of the AUC in Colombia.
Download and read: