A six-year legal battle came to an end when the United States Court of Appeal ruled in favour of US-based coal company Drummond, accused of conspiring with paramilitary groups, involvement in a workplace accident and threatening to dismiss workers in Colombia.
The ruling ended a six-year legal battle in which Drummond managers were accused of involvement in making payments to the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). The Federal Court of Appeal of the Atlanta Circuit in the United States ruled that there was insufficient evidence against Drummond, a decision which left the company’s workers angry.
The unions Sintramienergética, Funtraenergética and the families of murdered trade unionists were the first to take the matter to court. They accused Drummond of maintaining links with paramilitary groups since 1985. According to Francisco Ramirez Cuellar, a trade union leader in the mining industry, paramilitaries, workers, contractors and a former head of security at Drummond all assured him that the company “financed the creation of a Paramilitary Front with 200 men starting in 1986 and gave them $US3 million”.
“The innocence of a criminal organization”
The decision to acquit Drummond shocked the company’s workers who are in a difficult situation. Two workers were recently killed in a workplace accident in Magdalena. The company is also responsible for repeatedly polluting the environment. In response to these serious violations, the National Movement of Victims of Multinational and Transnational Corporations (MNVC) announced that: “We are shocked that the company’s spokesperson is cynical enough to come out and claim that this criminal organization is innocent”.
The court also ruled that there was insufficient evidence to show that Drummond managers were responsible for “an alleged corporate plan that led to the killing by the AUC of civilians living close to mining operations and the railway”. Ramirez Cuellar explained that Jim Adkins, head of security for Drummond until 2001, and company management formulated a corporate plan to create “a paramilitary group to ´guarantee´ security in the mining area and along the railway that carries the coal”.
The workers and their families decided to seek legal remedy for these crimes in the courts of Europe, Indonesia and South America. They also decided to call for the nationalization of the Drummond and Prodeco (Glencore) mines and compensation for employees and sick and dismissed workers and their families at both companies.
IndustriALL Global Union condemns the constant human rights violations in Colombia and calls for immediate action to dissolve the paramilitary groups in accordance with repeated recommendations by the United Nations.