A US court has thrown out a landmark lawsuit brought against US multinational Chiquita by the families of 900 Colombians killed by paramilitaries, alleging that the banana corporation made payments to the armed groups responsible for the murders.
Chiquita Brands International, as the company is now known, was fined $25 million by US authorities in 2007 after being found guilty of paying $1.7 million to now-defunct paramilitary umbrella group AUC , between 1997 and 2004.
Although the crimes were perpetrated in Colombia, this latest trial was allowed to proceed in the US by a Florida judge’s ruling in 2011.
Chiquita, who have long claimed the payments were extorted, attempted to get the lawsuit thrown out in April of this year on the grounds that although they made the payments, it cannot be asserted that they were directly linked to the thousands of deaths caused by the paramilitaries, reported Colombia’s Santa Fe Radio.
On Thursday this week, by a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Miami said US courts lack power to review the claims because all relevant conduct took place outside the country and Chiquita’s mere presence in the United States did not confer jurisdiction, according to reports from Reuters.
The majority cited a 2013 US Supreme Court ruling known as Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum that imposed limits on attempts by foreigners to use US courts to seek damages against corporations for human rights abuses abroad, according to the Associated Press.