Colombia senate passes victim compensation law

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[JURIST] The Colombian Senate [official website, in Spanish] passed a law on Wednesday to compensate citizens who have been victimized by ongoing civil turmoil. The Victims’ Law and Land Restitution Law [backgrounder, in Spanish] will provide financial compensation and restitution of land to victims of internal armed conflicts involving paramilitaries and guerrillas during the past 30 years. Individuals who feel they have been victimized by the conflicts since January 1, 1985 are eligible for financial compensation, and those who have also had their land seized or abandoned their land in the wake of armed conflict are subject to restitution of their land. The government estimates that 4 million hectares of land were abandoned and 2 million were seized during conflicts. The government will utilize the current court system to hear litigation regarding compensation and restitution. Senator Juan Fernando Cristo [official website, in Spanish] stated [press release, in Spanish] that, while the law is not perfect, it is “a good law and part two of the history of this country.” The entire process is expected to take 10 years to complete.

The US federal court system has heard several cases regarding corporate involvement in Colombian violence. In February, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] revived a wrongful death lawsuit [JURIST report] brought against Drummond Company [corporate website]. The plaintiffs alleged that, after Drummond employees in Colombia successfully unionized, the company hired the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) [CFR backgrounder], a group of paramilitaries, to break up the union and murder its leaders, plaintiff’s fathers. In April 2010, victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia filed suit against Chiquita Brand International [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The plaintiffs were 242 Colombians who alleged that they had been seriously injured or had family members killed by the AUC, which received funding from Chiquita. In 2007, Chiquita was fined $25 million [JURIST report] after it admitted to making payments of around $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004 to the AUC.

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