FAQs

1. Who has Khulumani taken to court?

IBM; Daimler AG; General Motors; Ford; Rheinmetall AG

2. Why?

Khulumani believes that these companies knowingly aided and abetted the apartheid government and its military and security forces in committing gross human rights violations. Many of Khulumani’s members were directly affected alongside many other South Africans. These companies have not yet been held to account for their role in assisting the apartheid government and causing harm to South African citizens.

3. What violations were committed?

Extra-judicial killings (murder and assassination); indiscriminate shootings; torture; sexual assault; prolonged arbitrary detention; and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

4. Didn’t the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) give amnesty to apartheid-era perpetrators?

Amnesty was only given to certain individuals who were judged to have disclosed the full truth about their crimes. International business did not appear before the TRC and did not take any responsibility for the role they had played in aiding and abetting the crimes of the illegitimate apartheid government.

5. Why is the court case being held in New York City, USA and not in South Africa?

The United States has a law, the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) that allows any person or group of persons from another country (an alien) to bring a civil claim for damages in a US court, where there has been a violation of the law of nations. No similar law exists in South Africa.

6. Which principles inform Khulumani’s case?

The principles informing the case are the explicit right in the South African Constitution for individuals to seek legal recourse in a competent court; the right to a remedy and reparations for victims of gross violations of international human rights law; the demand that companies that aid and abet the perpetration of crimes be held accountable; and the commitment to ending impunity as the means of preventing the recurrence of such crimes.

7. What is the position of the South African government on the lawsuit?

The South African government initially adopted a neutral stance towards the case. It then became hostile to the case. In 2003 it petitioned the court to dismiss the case. Then, in September 2009, it reversed its position and advised the court that it did not object to the case proceeding and that the New York court was the appropriate forum for the hearing of the case.

8. What is the current status of the lawsuit?

The lawsuit is now combined with two other ‘apartheid cases‘, and is called the South Africa Apartheid Litigation. In April 2009, in a milestone decision in the Southern District Court of New York. Justice Scheindlin ruled  that the lawsuit could continue against five defendants – Daimler AG, Ford and General Motors for supplying armoured vehicles and/motor parts to the apartheid military and security establishments; against IBM for aiding and abetting arbitrary denationalization by facilitating the removal of the South African citizenship of black South Africans using computer software designed for this purpose; and against Rheinmetall for providing armaments to the security establishment. In response, the defendants launched an appeal to dismiss the case arguing that corporate entities – because they are not human beings – cannot be held accountable for breaches of international law and that the ATCA does not recognize non-criminal liability. Arguments from both parties were heard on 11 January 2010. Judgment is awaited.

9. What is the position of plaintiffs as far as settlement is concerned?

The named plaintiffs and other Khulumani members have given a mandate to Khulumani’s lawyers to negotiate with the defendants should they want to engage in settlement talks.

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