US Multinational Faces Human Rights Trial

Mining company accused of playing role in Colombian murders
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2007 2:47 PM CDT
US Multinational Faces Human Rights Trial
A train laden with coal leaves Drummond Ltd's La Loma coal mine, in northeastern Colombia, bound for the company's Caribbean port Monday, June 25, 2007. A U.S. jury is to hear a civil suit Monday July 9, 2007, that claims Drummond contracted an illegal paramilitary group to kill three mineworkers union...   (Associated Press)

A landmark trial addressing corporate culpability for human-rights violations committed on foreign soil gets under way this week, testing whether an 18th-century antipiracy law applies to modern business practices. At issue is the 2001 murder of three Colombian mining-union leaders, the Wall Street Journal reports, and under scrutiny is the alleged involvement of an American mining company.

Birmingham, Alabama-based Drummond denies complicity in the murders. Rights groups see the case as a bellwether, and accusations that sound like something out of a spy thriller have other corporations on high alert. This is the first case of its kind to reach trial; another, involving an oil company doing business in Myanmar, was settled, and others are pending. (More human rights violations stories.)

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