Companies who financed paramilitary death squads in Colombia’s banana growing region, including Chiquita’s subsidiary, will face charges for crimes against humanity, the Prosecutor General’s Office said Thursday.
The prosecution decision is unprecedented as never before have private enterprises been charged with crimes against humanity.
The charges will be brought before the transitional justice system that seeks justice for the 8 million victims of Colombia’s 52-year war, the majority of whom fell victim to paramilitary groups financed and supported by politicians and businesses.
The banana companies that operated in the northwestern region of Uraba are either accused, or in the case of Chiquita convicted, for financing the “Banana Block” of paramilitary umbrella organization AUC that killed thousands of Colombians.
The phenomenon of ties between national and multinational corporations and the AUC, a determined terrorist organization at one time, has since become known as “para-economics.”
The banana companies, as it seems, contributed an important sum of money for the sustenance of the paramilitary group that ended up in the hands of the combatants through the so-called ‘Convivir’ when these were still legal and later through security cooperatives.
Transitional Justice Unit Director Carlos Villamil
As part of a peace deal with Colombia’s largest and oldest guerrilla group, the FARC, the transitional justice court will not just try the 6,200 FARC guerrillas who are in the process of demobilization and an unknown number of FARC militia members, but also 12,500 civilians and businesses, and 24,400 state officials accused of war-related crimes.
Now that the corporations’ alleged crimes are deemed crimes against humanity, the companies lose the possibility to stall investigations until common legal time limits pass.
Some of Colombia’s largest companies have already been implicated in investigations into the paramilitary killings of labor rights activists, human rights defenders and leftist politicians.
According to Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo, the transitional justice system should take force once the six-month process to demobilize and disarm the FARC is completed.