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Corporate Accountability 1, Greedy Giants 0

Shell got off scot-free despite strong evidence they were up to their necks in aiding the Nigerian military’s torture and killing spree against environmental protesters.

Posted by John Donovan: 12 June 2024

In a rare twist of fate where the universe temporarily operates on justice, Chiquita Brands was held accountable for its cosy relationship with murderous paramilitaries in Colombia. A Florida jury just slapped the fruit giant with a $38.3 million bill for the deaths of eight people, putting a price tag on human lives lost in Chiquita’s quest for banana empire dominance.

You see, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, Chiquita thought it was a brilliant idea to pay almost $2 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing death squad. In return, these thugs made sure the land was ripe for banana farming, even if it meant killing and displacing locals. The AUC, a group so charming they got themselves labeled a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., happily did the dirty work while Chiquita reaped the benefits. Fast forward to 2024, and the families of eight victims have finally been granted a slice of justice.

In a world where corporations usually dodge accountability like they’re playing hopscotch, this ruling is a big deal. Remember, Chiquita already paid a $25 million criminal fine in 2007 for breaking anti-terrorism laws. But getting a court to admit they played a part in actual human rights abuses? Unheard of! Normally, big companies hide behind international free trade agreements and secretive tribunals to cry “victim” when governments dare to threaten their profits with pesky regulations.

Now, let’s talk about ExxonMobil, who spent decades dodging allegations of hiring soldiers to commit atrocities in Indonesia. They settled quietly last year, just before a trial could start. And in a beautiful display of hypocrisy, ExxonMobil denied everything, and the settlement terms are now locked up tighter than a drum.

And who can forget Shell, the poster child for corporate impunity? In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Alien Tort Statute doesn’t apply to human rights violations committed abroad unless there’s a direct U.S. connection. Shell got off scot-free despite strong evidence they were up to their necks in aiding the Nigerian military’s torture and killing spree against environmental protesters. Shell continues to dodge accountability like it’s their job, which, let’s be honest, it kind of is.

But hey, this week, Chiquita’s loss gives a glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, this won’t be the last time a corporate giant gets a well-deserved slap on the wrist. Let’s hope the next one lands even harder.

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