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  • Written by  Sunday Times
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Group appeals dismissed apartheid case

Human rights activist group Khulumani International is to appeal against a New York court judgment dismissing an application for reparations from international companies that did business in South Africa during the apartheid era. The appeal will be heard in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in New York on November 5.

Human rights activist group Khulumani International is to appeal against a New York court judgment dismissing an application for reparations from international companies that did business in South Africa during the apartheid era. The appeal will be heard in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in New York on November 5.

Companies that Khulumani is seeking reparations from include international banking groups like Barclays plc, Citbank and Deutsche Bank, which it says profited from making the finance available that enabled South Africa to expand its apartheid police and security apparatus; oil companies like Total, BP, Engen and Shell among others, which it charges profited by violating the oil embargoes against South Africa at the time; and car manufacturers such as Daimler Chrysler, which it alleges profited from manufacturing the armoured vehicles used to patrol the townships, "knowing that they would be used in repressive activities in the townships".

It also cites arms manufacturers which it claims profited by violating embargoes on arms sales to South Africa.

An application filed earlier by Khulumani for reparations to be made to victims of human rights suffered under apartheid was rejected by the Southern District Court in New York on the grounds that it was more of a political issue than a legal one.

According to Khulumani, the South African government has filed an amicus curiae brief recommending that the Khulumani appeal be dismissed.

"The Government's amicus brief opposes the amicus curiae briefs signed by the majority of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Commissioners. The Court will presumably take great stock in the opinion of the South African Government as did the lower level District Court when dismissing what were referred to as the 'South African apartheid lawsuits' at this level," Khulumani said.

"The amicus curiae brief now submitted by government simply reiterates and endorses the stance outlined in the 'Maduna affidavit' that actions such as the Khulumani International Lawsuit undermine the sovereignty of the South African government. Khulumani Support Group however is of the opinion that (former SA Justice Minister) Dr Maduna's affidavit was not, and the subsequent affidavit submitted by the Honourable Minister Mabandla is not, applicable to the Khulumani lawsuit."

"In particular, the assertions that the lawsuits undermine the sovereignty of the South African government are not applicable to Khulumani Support Group," Khulumani stated.

The human rights group said that its international lawsuit covered a time period during which the General Assembly of the United Nations had declared apartheid to be a crime against humanity.

"The Khulumani Lawsuit thus seeks to hold accountable those internationally-based businesses that aided and abetted (and at the same time profited from) the apartheid regime for enabling the perpetration of gross human rights abuses and violations carried out mainly by the security forces in South Africa through their financial and other support to that government."

"The specified businesses did not use the opportunity offered them to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It is inexcusable for them now claim the 'protection' of the TRC process in order not to be held responsible for their role in the gross human rights abuses and violations that were perpetrated under apartheid," it asserted.

"Khulumani Support Group respectfully urges the South African Minister of Justice, the Honourable Brigitte Mabandla, and the South African Cabinet to reconsider their amicus curiae brief, not only for the sake of victims and survivors of apartheid gross human rights abuses and violations, but also in the light of the adverse legacy that this action potentially leaves towards an undermining of the international human rights agenda and the undermining of a rule of law that applies to all persons and to juristic bodies such a corporations," Khulumani added.

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