Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hausfeld files an Amicus Brief


September 29, 2004

Hausfeld files an Amicus Brief in support of Khulumani's lawsuit endorsed by many heavyweights in the international human rights movement

September 29, 2004 Tonight, Michael Hausfeld, the human rights lawyer representing the Khulumani Support Group, filed an amicus brief -or legal opinion -in a New York court in support of Khulumani's litigation against specific foreign corporations which aided and abetted the apartheid government. "The decisions (to be) made by the court charged with deciding on this lawsuit, will shape the future of human rights litigation and will reverberate beyond the courthouse walls to the ears of officials and private (citizens) across the world", says Hausfeld. The amicus brief has been endorsed by 207 signatories, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Joseph Stiglitz and Charles Ogletree.

Khulumani filed their lawsuit in New York in November 2002 using the Alien Tort Claims Act 1789 - a controversial legislation which allows companies to be sued in the American courts for human rights breaches committed anywhere in the world. The reason for the timing of the present filing is the June 29 ruling by the US Supreme Court on the applicability of the Alien Tort Claims Act 1789 (the Sosa v Alvarez-Machain ruling) which confirmed that companies could be sued in the American courts for human rights violations committed anywhere in the world. British human rights lawyer, Martyn Day says, "This 1789 Act is considered the most progressive and prohuman-rights law on the US statute books".

Khulumani's lawsuit seeks to hold 23 multinational corporations accountable for their role in supporting an environment in which Gross violations of human rights were made possible. The case represents the strongest case yet globally for advancing the extension of fundamental human rights to include the practices of governments and foreign multinationals anywhere in the world and to obligate adherence to behaviour that respects basic human dignity and provides redress for violations of these universally recognised norms and standards. "These are rights that should be litigated in every judicial system in the world", says Hausfeld.

The only obstacle standing in the way of "an automatic acceptance" of the case is seen as the opposition of the South African Government which called on the US courts in July last year to dismiss all apartheid-related cases in US courts on the grounds that these would have the effect of setting up a surrogate government (on account of the quantity of damages being requested) and that they would undermine the contributions that "corporate South Africa are already making to(wards) the broad national goal of rehabilitating the lives of those affected by apartheid".

But, these arguments do not apply to the Khulumani lawsuit which names as defendants only those foreign corporations that refused to participate in the TRC process and that failed to take responsibility for their involvement in the apartheid state's security apparatuses. The Khulumani lawsuit seeks to engage corporations in a dialogue in relation to what they might contribute towards repairing the damage done to individuals and communities in South Africa. The Khulumani action is likely to be the crucial test for the 1789 Act. It is certainly the most credible of the apartheid lawsuits claims and with the existing endorsements, it will be hard to ignore.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact:

Marjorie Jobson, Chairperson, Khulumani Support Group, Tel: +27-82-268-0223; or Charles Abrahams, Attorney, Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys, Tel +27-21-934-4842 or visit the website

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Visit to South Africa

I am just back from a 10 day visit to South Africa. I was out working on a project entitled Reimagining Women’s Security in Societies in Transition, an exciting new project I am working on with others from Northern Ireland, South Africa and Lebanon. I also took some time to attend a Board meeting of the Khulumani Support Group. One of the main issues, of course, was the apartheid lawsuits. It really was a full visit, and apologies to all those I did not get to this time.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Northern Ireland talks must address the past

Embargoed until 00.01 September 16th 2004

How we deal with the past must form part of the talks at Leeds Castle if we are serious about achieving long-term settlement.

This call comes from Healing Through Remembering (HTR), a diverse group of individuals who have spent three years developing a series of recommendations for how to come to terms with a conflictual past.

Speaking as the talks are set to begin, HTR’s Chairman Professor Roy McClelland said: “Achieving a political settlement is important and we welcome the start of today’s talks, but for any settlement to succeed we need to remember the past in a way that enables us to heal the wounds in our society. Without this, any long-term political settlement could be easily undermined.”

“There will be no ultimate peace until we have a clearer understanding of our shared past. Dealing with the past is a long-term process and there is certainly no quick solution that can be debated and agreed over four days of talks. This is a long, difficult and complex journey and there is a need for everyone sitting around the table to acknowledge the past in order to go forward”, added Professor McClelland.

By posing the question ‘How should we remember the events connected with the conflict in and about Northern Ireland’ the Healing Through Remembering project received a wide range of submissions from the general public, organisations and individuals. It has used these to develop a series of recommendations on how to move the process forward, which include

* Acknowledgement
* A Storytelling Process
* A Day of Reflection
* Permanent Living Memorial Museum
* A Network of Commemoration and Remembering Projects

A number of working groups are currently developing these recommendations into practical proposals.

“As a first step, we would call on those people representing our society within the talks at Leeds Castle to engage in a spirit of tolerance and respect and to be mindful that a failure to acknowledge the past will undermine any shared future. Everyone has a part to play in dealing with the memories of the past and there needs to be a willingness to take risks if we are to avoid further damage and move into a new future built on a shared acknowledgement of the past”, said Professor McClelland.

“Some will argue that drawing attention to the past will simply slow up the prospect of a political settlement”, added Professor McClelland, “however, we believe that coming to terms with the past is vital for moving forward and for any lasting peace”.


For further information please contact:
Nicky Petrie, Pagoda PR: 07960 586654/ 028 9092 3468
Kate Turner, Healing Through Remembering: 028 9023 8844/07786 263083

Notes to editors:

1. The key task of the Healing Through Remembering Project, formally launched in October 2001, was “to identify and document possible mechanisms and realisable options for healing through remembering for those affected by the conflict in and about Northern Ireland”.

2. Since the publication of Healing Through Remembering’s report the organisation has been engaged in discussions with groups and individuals about the report and the detailed recommendations. Encouraged by the feedback from these meetings Healing Through Remembering is now taking the recommendations further.

3. Copies of the Report are available on line at or by contacting the office, tel 02890238844; fax 02890239944, e-mail:

Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Impact of Trauma: A psychosocial approach

I have been meaning to put this up for a while, it is a copy of the keynote address I gave to the “A Shared Practice - Victims Work in Action Conference”, 7-8 April 2004, Radisson Roe Park Hotel, in Limavady, Northern Ireland. To read the paper online, click here.

Friday, September 3, 2004

Zim govt after 'mercenary' plane, cash and their boots

Today the Mail and Guardian reported, bringing a little smile to my face, that "the Zimbabwean government wants to keep the plane that flew the suspected mercenaries into Harare and the $200 000 the men had on them when they were arrested. It is also after their boots. The plane is valued at between $3-million and $5-million, but no valuation was immediately available for the mercenaries' boots".

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Apartheid-era graveyard found

News24 reported recently that an Apartheid-era graveyard has been found. The article
edited by Tisha Steyn read "The Scorpions confirmed reports that they had discovered a secret apartheid-era graveyard containing the remains of 18 members of Mkhonto We Sizwe (MK), SABC reported on Monday. The remains were believed to have been buried by security police in the former Bophuthatswana homeland in the mid 80s. Police investigators said some of the victims were believed to have been blown up while trying to set off land mines. Others appeared to have been burnt to death by means of "fake necklacing". Former Truth Reconciliation Commission commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza said some of the dead MK members could have been victims who were mentioned during amnesty applications".