01 December 2009

United States supports Khulumani in Reparations Case

The Khulumani Support Group is an organisation which has worked closely with SAHA on a number of matters. This relationship has seen the two organisations working to build Khulumani's PAIA capacity through the Freedom of Information Programme, as well as joining together in the Presidential Pardons Coalition. Khulumani is pursuing a court action in New York to call to account large multi-national corporations, based in six different countries, for their aiding and abetting of the Apartheid government. This corporate support allowed the Apartheid government to commit gross human rights violations against the South African people.

The case is currently on appeal. Originally, the South African government did not support Khulumani and in fact approached the court a quo urging them to dismiss the case. However, there has been a recent amendment in the position of our government under the new administration. On 1 September 2009 the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe, wrote to the court to state that the government now believed that court to be the appropriate forum for the resolution of the dispute.

The most recent development, however, has been that the United States has issued a brief as amicus in the case lending its support to the position of Khulumani. The court ordered the United States to submit a statement of their position. They were in essence responding to the very particular argument of the corporations that Khulumani's claims were non-justiciable because the suit would affect the United State's foreign relations (particularly with South Africa). However, to have a claim thrown out of court on this basis, the position needs to be supported by the United States itself. The United States reiterated that it had not explicitly stated the position that the suit would harm foreign relations and should therefore be dismissed. The United States has stated that, while there may potentially be an impact on foreign relations, they do not believe the impact to be so grave that it demands the dismissal of the case at this stage. This position has largely been a result of the South African government's new statement to the Court and is no doubt a positive development for furthering the object of accountability sought by the Khulumani Support Group.