In March 2007, Defendant Chiquita Brands International pled guilty to knowingly providing material support to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia or “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 Sentencing Memorandum submitted to the District Court and found, after a full investigation, that “Chiquita’s money helped buy weapons and ammunition used to kill innocent victims.” The Plaintiffs allege that for seven years, Chiquita provided not only financial assistance to the AUC, but also shipments of arms and ammunition with the knowledge, from the day the first payment was made, that the AUC was a violent organization responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, war crimes, and other human rights violations. Plaintiffs further allege that Chiquita supplied this support in exchange for the pacification of the banana growing regions of the country and the suppression of labor and community opposition to the company. During this time, Colombia was Chiquita’s most profitable banana-producing region despite a bloody civil war.
Cohen Milstein represents family members of the trade unionists, banana workers, political organizers, activists and others killed by the AUC, with Chiquita’s support. The suit is based on the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act.
On June 3, 2011, Judge Kenneth A. Marra of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that Plaintiffs’ claims against Chiquita for torture, extrajudicial killing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, may continue in U.S. federal court.
The case, 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.