South African Apartheid Victims Sue Multinationals

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Wednesday, January 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On November 12, 2002, a complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of dozens of South Africans who allege they are victims of acts by twenty-two multinational companies that aided the former apartheid government of South Africa in crimes of forced labor, torture, and other crimes. Among the defendants include car manufacturers that provided armored vehicles used to patrol South African townships, banks that funded the expansion of the South African police and security forces and oil companies that violated embargoes on sales to South Africa. The suit shows the various efforts by victims of transnational crimes to recover civilly for their suffering from such crimes. Indeed, a new industry of civil prosecution has arisen as a result of globalization and the emergence of international criminal law. While the U.S. has been a leading forum for these cases, Spain is also serving as a forum for class actions.