In spite of a December 2008 jury trial verdict funding that U.S. coal company Drummond and its officers were innocent of any involvement or responsibility for the murders of union leaders in Colombia in 2001, a federal civil lawsuit claims the company paid millions of dollars to a Colombian paramilitary terrorist group that ...was responsible for the deaths of 67 people.
The Florida law firm of Conrad and Scherer filed the lawsuit on behalf of 252 plaintiffs, who are relatives of 67 victims, including four women. The litigation was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Western Division.
Drummond is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.
Former United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia (AUC) head Salvatore Mancuso has testified both in court and before U.S. congressional committees that Drummond Company and its subsidiary Drummond Ltd. had provided substantial support to the AUC and had paid the AUC to assassinate the top union leaders at the Drummond coal mine in Cesar Province, Colombia.
The lawsuit claims, Other AUC leaders have stated recently that Drummond provided substantial support to the AUC to provide security and other services to protect the Drummond mine, railroad and other facilities from attacks by the FARC and also to pacify the local population.
A division of the AUC, the Juan Andres Alvarez Front was assigned to protect Drummond rail line. The lawsuit asserts, From 1999, when Drummond first started providing significant funds to the Juan Andres Alvarez Front to March 2006, when the Colombia government demobilized the AUC's Northern Block, hundreds of people were executed by the Juan Andres Alvarez Front during the course of its ‘security operations' for Drummond.
These people were murdered solely because Drummond brought the Juan Andes Alvarez Front to the area of the railroad, provided it with substantial financial and other material support, and directed it to clear the area of suspected rebels and guerillas, the lawsuit claims.
The plaintiffs claim that Drummond knew that hundreds or even thousands of people living in the railroad corridor would be executed as part of the AUC's method for terrorizing a population.
The murders of the decedents described herein are war crimes and extrajudicial killings in violation of the ATS [Alien Tort Statute], the TVPA [Torture Victims Protection Act], international human rights law and Colombian law.
The suit also claims that in a November 2000 meeting, Drummond executives in Colombia allegedly ordered the executive of two union leaders at the Drummond Mines.
However, on December 30, 2008, the federal court jury found the company and its officers had no involvement or responsibility for the murders of the union leaders.
Named as defendants in the civil lawsuits are Drummond Company; Augusto Jimenez, president of Drummond Ltd. in Colombia; Alfredo Araujo, Drummond's director of community relations in Colombia; and James Atkins, Drummond chief of security in Colombia.
Rep. Bill Delahunt, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, has pursued the matter through hearings, requests for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, and other avenues.
The United Steelworkers has also been involved in lawsuits against Drummond and has appealed to Congress to help protect witnesses.