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|Updated: 18.12.2012 15:51|
The suit is presented in the USA. Victims say Mercedes-Benz complicit in Argentine dirty war
The article Victims say Mercedes-Benz complicit in Argentine dirty war by David Kravetes, published in Assiciated Press on jan. 14, 2004
SAN FRANCISCO - Survivors and victims of Argentina's "dirty war" filed suit Wednesday, hoping to use an arcane 215-year-old U.S. law to seek redress against automaker Mercedes-Benz for allegedly aiding human rights abuses in their country.
Survivors of nine victims who disappeared and eight who
say they were kidnapped and tortured by the Argentine government in the
late 1970s filed suit in federal court, alleging Mercedes-Benz was complicit
in the killing, torture or kidnapping by the military of unionized auto
Several other cases brought under the act alleging corporate
human rights abuses overseas are making their way through federal courts,
in the face of criticism from the Bush administration.
Mercedes-Benz's parent, DaimlerChrysler Corp. of Stuttgart,
Germany, denied the allegations.
This use of the act has come under sharp attack by the
Justice Department. In the UNOCAL case, the Bush administration said in
a court filing that the law is being misused, telling a San Francisco-based
federal appeals court that nothing in the act "suggests an intent
on the part of Congress that it would furnish a foundation for suits based
on conduct occurring within other nations."
DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman Ursula Mertzig-Stein said a company-sponsored study released last month concluded there was no evidence the automaker was complicit in the military's rights abuses.
"We have no signs that this is true," Mertzig-Stein
said. "We were not involved in wrongdoings."
The suit says "the kidnapping, detention and torture
of these plaintiffs were carried out by state security forces acting under
the direction of and with material assistance" from Mercedes-Benz's
plant in Gonzalez-Catan, near Buenos Aires.
The disappearances and abuses came against a background of tension between Mercedes-Benz workers and management both before and after the 1976 military takeover of the government. During a 22-day strike in 1975, 117 workers were fired and the plant manager was kidnapped and held for two months by suspected leftist guerrillas.
The world's fifth-largest automaker commissioned an outside investigation a year ago, headed by Berlin law professor Christian Tomuschat, amid persistent accusations that managers at its subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Argentina, used the terror unleashed by the country's 1976-1983 military dictatorship to intimidate its workers.
The December report was issued days after prosecutors in Nuremberg dropped a criminal probe against the now-retired head of the Mercedes-Benz factory, Juan Tasselkraut, who is named with others in the lawsuit filed Wednesday.
DaimlerChrysler hired Tomuschat after discussions with Amnesty International, which recommended the company carry out an independent report and suggested the Berlin professor. Tomuschat served on a commission that looked into human rights violations in Guatemala's 36-year civil war.
The case is Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 04-0194.
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