The United States Supreme Court has issued an order that will allow the law suit being brought forward by victims of apartheid in South Africa to sue 23 multinational corporations on the grounds that the companies collaborated with the policy have been given
clearance to take their case forward.
The defendants in the case are :: Barclay National Bank Ltd., British Petroleum, PLC, Chevrontexaco Corporation, Chevrontexaco Global Energy, Inc., Citigroup, Inc., Commerzbank, Credit Suisse Group, Daimlerchrysler AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Dresdner Bank AG, Exxonmobil Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Fujitsu, Ltd., General Motors Corporations, International Business Machines Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase, Shell Oil Company, UBS AG, AEG Daimler-Benz Industrie, Fluor Corporation, Rheinmetall Group AG, Rio Tinto Group and Total-Fina-Elf.
The Khulumani Support Group is an organisation of apartheid victims and survivors and they welcomed the court order calling it a "significant development".
They also stated that "the critical arguments that corporations should be held accountable for aiding and abetting the perpetration of gross human rights violations, can now be interrogated."
The Alien Tort Statue is a 200 year old American law under which the case is being brought forward. New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse has said that it was still "highly uncertain" whether the case would ever go to trial.
One of the barriers to the case proceeding in Greenhouse’s view is that the court would be unable to hear the apartheid case as a consequence of three judges holding stock in defendant companies, and the employment by another company of the son of a fourth judge.
"The outcome calls attention to the occasionally uncomfortable consequences of the justices' ownership of stock in individual companies," she wrote. "With solitary recusals being much more frequent, a 4-to-4 deadlock is a more common outcome than an inability to proceed with the case at all."
The multinationals are being targeted “for having aided and abetted the perpetration of gross human rights violations in South Africa under apartheid by equipping and financing the apartheid government's military and security agencies."
The Khulumani Support Group said all the defendants had operations in apartheid South Africa, and it was seeking damages for "specific violations of internationally recognized human rights norms... by the apartheid government following the United Nations' classification of apartheid as a crime against humanity."