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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 21:13 GMT
Court throws out apartheid cases
The Sharpeville massacre
Apartheid-era abuses were not the firms' fault, the judge said
A New York court has thrown out legal cases against more than 30 companies, accused of having illegally aided the apartheid-era South African Government.

The class-action lawsuits targeted firms including computer giant IBM and banking giant Citigroup.

According to the plaintiffs, groups and individuals who suffered under apartheid, the companies supplied oil, money and technology to South Africa.

These resources, the case argued, were used for "oppression and persecution".

But the judge found that there was no violation of the law in commercial links with South Africa.

Legal complexities

"Although it is clear that the actions of the apartheid regime were repugnant, and that the decision of the defendants to do business with that regime may have been morally suspect... it is this court's job to apply the law and not some normative or moral ideal," District Judge John Sprizzo wrote in his judgement.

Ed Fagan
Mr Fagan was asking for a $20bn compensation fund
The promoters of the lawsuit had hoped to follow the success of legal action on behalf of victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Although those cases have been complicated, legal pressure has persuaded companies and governments involved in the Holocaust to arrange for compensation.

In the case of apartheid, matters have been impeded by the lack of direct corporate involvement in South African human-rights abuses.

Ed Fagan, a US lawyer who has brought a string of class-action lawsuits over human-rights cases, had demanded that the South African Government and companies should pay into a $20bn "humanitarian fund".

Mbeki sued over apartheid era
21 Jun 04 |  Africa
Business in dock over apartheid
09 Aug 02 |  Business

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