Judge John Sprizzo harshly told the plaintiffs' lawyers that they had failed to make a convincing case that the companies had "aided and abetted" crimes of the apartheid regime. Sprizzo said he would make a written judgment at a later date. But several of his comments in court indicated he would grant the companies' motion to dismiss the suits.
Abstracts from article:
If victims of apartheid had a case against companies dealing with the apartheid state, then electrical companies could be sued for their part in deaths on the electric chair, the judge argued this week.
He compared what the corporations did to "someone selling sugar to a bootlegger". "Their motivation was to make a buck," he said. "That's a different motivation than the apartheid government's.
He challenged the plaintiff's attorneys to show complicity in apartheid's crimes. "Were they acting as agents of the South African government? Were they paid? Were they employees?"
The judge challenged the plaintiffs' lawyers to show that there was a body of international law that prohibited doing business with repressive regimes. "We [the United States] do business with China. We do business with Russia," he said. "We do business with all kinds of countries around the world that you could say arguably violate human rights in ways that are much more egregious than apartheid."
When Michael Osborne, [one of] the plaintiff's lawyer[s], sought precedent in a ruling by the United Nations war crimes court in Yugoslavia, Sprizzo countered: "Separate housing is not the same thing as burying people in mass graves. "There is racial segregation and then there is racial segregation," he said.
He rejected arguments that the numerous United Nations resolutions condemning apartheid created the international law upon which the cases could be tried. "When did the UN general assembly prohibit apartheid?" the judge asked, pointing out that general assembly resolutions are not legally binding on nations.
Sprizzo questioned the entire concept of international law. "Can there be any law without the power to enforce it?" he asked. "What is international law but that the big powers get together and agree on something because it is in their interests?"
He challenged the plaintiffs to prove there were international conventions or treaties that made "aiding and abetting" a crime. That charge is a principal one in the lawsuits.
- Source: Full article "US judge may dismiss apartheid lawsuit" appeared on the Independant Online iol.co.za website