/ 15 October 2007

US court gives hope to apartheid victims

Victims who filed suit for $400-billion against United States businesses allegedly complicit with the former South African apartheid regime have found new hope following a federal court ruling in the US.

“The appeal court decision is a major victory,” said Michael Hausfeld, a lawyer for the victims on the heels of Friday’s decision by a Manhattan federal court.

Hausfeld said the ruling “enables victims of terrible human rights abuses to hold those who aided and abetted those abuses accountable”.

“Apartheid was an institutionalised system of racial disenfranchisement, forced labour, and criminal domination. It sought to and did exploit and degrade the black South African population for a criminal purpose, through criminal means,” Hausfeld added.

The appeal court forced district Judge John Sprizzo, who had thrown out the suit, to review the decision. The current US and South African governments have spoken out against the suit.

It accuses about 50 US, European and Canadian corporations such as Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, General Electric, IBM, General Motors and Exxon, of “aiding and abetting” the South African regime through 1993. — AFP