Federal Judge Rules U.S. Companies Can Be Sued for Aiding South African Apartheid Regime

Glen Ford: Federal judge says non-US citizens can bring lawsuits against companies like Ford and IBM for collaborating with the South African apartheid regime

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Story Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Ford Report.

Now joining us is Glen Ford. He is the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report.

Thanks for joining us, Glen.

GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Hi. Thank you for inviting me.

DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, let’s talk about a recent ruling by a U.S. district court judge in Manhattan. She said that IBM and Ford can be sued for collaborating with the South African apartheid regime. In fact, the ruling says that noncitizens of the U.S. can bring lawsuits involving corporate violations of international law.

So, Glen, just give us some background here. What did corporations like IBM and Ford actually do to support the apartheid South African regime?

FORD: Well, this case, this judge’s action appears to be opening a door that it seemed had been closed in earlier rulings. In a Supreme Court ruling, the high court said that Royal Dutch Shell couldn’t be sued for its collaboration with the government in Nigeria and the crimes that had been perpetrated in Nigeria. This judge–who’s the judge, by the way, who was part of the massive stop-and-frisk ruling about a year and a half ago–this judge said that IBM and Ford can be charged under this act and that she sees no distinction between corporations being liable for taking part in acts of genocide and crimes against humanity and torture and such, no distinction between corporations and people. And that’s an interesting element of law. And she said that she sees on the face of it that the plaintiffs do have the right to charge that IBM and Ford knowingly assisted the apartheid regime, IBM by supplying the computers that were used to keep track of dissidents who were later tortured and jailed and disappeared and executed, and Ford by making the vehicles that the South African security forces used to suppress the rebellions in South Africa. So this is a potentially wide door.

However, we have to remind your viewers that this same judge, Judge Scheindlin, who handed down the far-reaching stop-and-frisk decision in New York, was also upbraided by her colleagues later on. So we’ll see how this fares in the U.S. judicial system.

DESVARIEUX: How did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa deal with collaboration and corporate abuses committed by U.S. multinational corporations like Ford and IBM?

FORD: None of them were punished. And this is a very important part of the story. The plaintiffs in this case are the Khulumani Group. The Khulumani Group believes that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process that was put in motion after the first black government assumed office in South Africa didn’t go far enough, that much more was needed [incompr.] than some kind of vague psychological cloture, that those who were guilty were not punished, that those who suffered under the apartheid regime were not repaired, and that moreover the society was not repaired, that the great differences in wealth and power in South African society need to be resolved as well, in terms of who controls the means of production and who controls the land, and also that those outside parties who helped sustain apartheid during all those years also must be held accountable. So the Khulumani Group is directly related to questions about truth and reconciliation and that the truth has not been told and people have not been reconciled.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Glen Ford, cofounder and executive director of Black Agenda Report, thank you so much for joining us.

FORD: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

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