Jun 27, 2024

Colombian Victims Win Historic Verdict Over Chiquita: Jury Finds Banana Company Liable for Financing Death Squads

After 17 years of litigation, victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia have secured a monumental win before a United States court.

West Palm Beach, FL (June 10, 2024) – In a landmark ruling in the fight for human rights, a jury has found Chiquita Brands International liable for financing the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a brutal paramilitary death squad. Following nearly two decades of legal proceedings, the first set of victims and their families have finally obtained justice.

The jury’s decision reaffirms what has long been asserted: Chiquita knowingly financed the AUC, a designated terrorist organization, in pursuit of profit, despite the AUC’s egregious human rights abuses. By providing over $1.7 million in illegal funding to the AUC from 1997 to 2004, Chiquita contributed to untold suffering and loss in the Colombian regions of Urabá and Magdalena, including the brutal murders of innocent civilians. This historic verdict also means some of the victims and families who suffered as a direct result of Chiquita’s actions will finally be compensated.

The victims welcomed this decision as recognition of their suffering and an opportunity for reparation. “It’s a triumph of a process that has been going on for almost 17 years, for all of us who have suffered so much during these years. There’s a debate about justice and reparation; we’ve been fighting since 2007. We’re not in this process because we want to be; it was Chiquita, with its actions, that dragged us into it. We have a responsibility to our families, and we must fight for them,” said one of the victims.

This historic ruling marks the first time an American jury has held a major U.S. corporation liable for complicity in serious human rights abuses in another country, a milestone for justice.

“This verdict sends a powerful message to corporations everywhere: profiting from human rights abuses will not go unpunished. These families, victimized by armed groups and corporations, asserted their power and prevailed in the judicial process,” said Marco Simons, EarthRights International General Counsel.

EarthRights expresses its profound respect and admiration for the victims, who have shown courage and determination in their pursuit of justice. It also extends its gratitude to the legal team and partners who have worked to achieve this historic victory.

This trial, which started with jury selection on April 24, involved the deaths of nine victims of the AUC. The broader litigation against Chiquita, however, includes hundreds more victims. Their cases may be resolved through additional trials or an eventual settlement.

In addition to EarthRights, groups of victims have been represented by multiple law firms – including Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, PA, and Conrad & Scherer, LLP. In this trial, a joint opening statement and closing argument was delivered by leading Florida plaintiffs’ attorney Jack Scarola.

EarthRights’ case was originally filed in July 2007. It was joined with several other cases against Chiquita in 2008, and since then the case has gone through multiple court rulings and appeals before reaching this trial.