Nestlé Test Case: Charges filed on murder of Colombian Trade Unionist
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)
6 March 2012 ECCHR and the Colombian trade union SINALTRAINAL yesterday filed charges with the Swiss public prosecutor in Zug against the company Nestlé and members of its senior management. They are accused of being responsible, by failing to take precautionary measures, for the 2005 murder of Luciano Romero. The criminal complaint is a case of legal precedence as it could mark the first time a Swiss company is held liable in Switzerland for a crime committed abroad.
Luciano Romero was murdered by paramilitaries on 10 September 2005 in Valledupar in north eastern Colombia. His body was found with 50 stab wounds. For years previously he had worked for the Colombian Nestlé subsidiary company Cicolac. The accused are said to have negligently failed to prevent the crime.
To this day, Colombia is plagued by an armed conflict in which trade unionists and other social groups are subjected to systematic persecution. Romero was on the receiving end of death threats after local Nestlé management falsely branded him a guerilla fighter. The former paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso has given evidence that Cicolac made payments to his units. Management at the Swiss company knew about the wrongdoing of its representatives in Colombia and about the intimidation of trade unionists locally. Yet it took no action.
The public prosecutor in Zug must now examine the relevance under criminal law of this omission. Investigative approaches to the case are set out in the circa 100-page criminal complaint. A decision will also have to be made whether in this case, for the first time, a company itself – instead of individual employees – will be subject to prosecution. The provision of Art. 102 on the criminal liability of companies was added to the Swiss Criminal Code in 2003 and has since then been hardly utilized.
The case was prepared with the support of MISEREOR
Source: http://www.ecchr.de/index.php/nestle-518.html , 6 March 2012