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Landmark corporate trial gets underway

Dan Grech Jul 9, 2007


Scott Jagow: This morning in Birmingham, Alabama, jury selection began in what could be a landmark corporate trial. A mining company called Drummond is accused of murder, essentially, at least, collaborating in the murder of three union leaders in Colombia, South America. This is the first time a U.S. federal court has looked at whether companies can be held accountable for violence overseas. Dan Grech reports from our Americas Desk at WLRN.

Dan Grech: The Drummond case turns on the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreigners to sue in U.S. court over violations of international law.

Families of the three slain union leaders filed the case against Drummond in 2002.

Daniel Kovalik is an attorney with United Steelworkers, which is one of the groups trying the case on behalf of the families.

Daniel Kovalik: No one denies that these guys were murdered on their way home from work, but what Drummond denies is that they had anything to do with it.

Kovalik counters Drummond and other U.S. companies like Chiquita have taken advantage of civil strife to target unionists who are fighting for higher wages and better working conditions.

Drummond maintains the murders were a result of Colombia’s decades-long civil war.

Exxon and Bridgestone have also been charged under the alien tort act. The Drummond trial will set a precedent on how those cases could unfold.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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