May 29, 2009

This case is interesting in all sorts of ways, not least is that it is a pioneering case under the Alien Torts Statute.

If the criminality and stupidity of mountaintop removal weren't enough here in the good ole U.S. of A, a new suit claims an Alabama coal company has employed a longstanding US policy of funneling money to third world murderers and is using your monthly electricity payment
to fund death squads in Columbia.

Undismayed is shocked that anyone would think a coal company would employ thugs and murderers to terrorize union leaders in Columbia. In West Virginia-- sure, but in a bastion of safety and legality like Columbia?

"Relatives of dozens of slain Colombians sued an Alabama-based coal company in federal court Thursday, accusing it of making millions of dollars in payments to a paramilitary group that sowed terror in the South American country.

The suit filed in Birmingham said 67 victims of the The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, also known as AUC, included unionists, farmworkers and others. It claimed the rightwing group received payments from operatives for Drummond allegedly to assassinate top union leaders and protect the company's large coal mine and railroad in Colombia.

The lawsuit is much broader than one filed in March by the children of three slain Colombian union leaders against Drummond Co. Inc.

A similar lawsuit ended in 2007 with a verdict for Drummond, which has repeatedly denied any connection with the Colombian violence. The verdict was upheld by a federal appeals court in December.

The plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit include hundreds of parents, children and siblings of people allegedly killed by AUC, mostly in Colombia's Cesar and Magdalena provinces.

A spokesman for Drummond, Bruce Windham, was out of its Birmingham headquarters Thursday and not immediately available to return a call for comment.

Attorney Terry Collingsworth, who represents the plaintiffs, said the latest lawsuit was filed because of new information alleging that Drummond made payments to the paramilitary group, which he said "terrorized people up and down Drummond's railroad corridor."

The suit lists both the victims and their relatives with pseudonyms such as "Jane Doe" or "Peter Doe," followed by a sequence of numbers. A motion is pending seeking to allow the suit to go forward while keeping the plaintiffs anonymous.

"Many of the AUC leaders are now speaking freely about their relationship with the elites of the Colombian business community, and their direct collaboration with the Colombian military," the suit said.

The suit, like the earlier ones, was filed under the more than 200-year-old Alien Torts Claims Act, which allows foreigners to file suit in U.S. courts for alleged wrongdoing overseas.

The initial suit was the first filed against a U.S. corporation under the law to ever make it to trial."

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