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Business Ethics

German companies found not liable in apartheid case

A district court in the US has ruled German companies could not be held responsible for the atrocities committed by the former apartheid regime in South Africa. The decision came after years of legal disputes.

German carmaker Daimler and defense group Rheinmetall could not be linked to any atrocities committed by the apartheid government in South Africa, a judge ruled in the US.

New York District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin made it clear the two German companies could not be sued for compensation under a US law known as the Alien Tort Statute. This allows non-US citizens to bring cases before a court in the United States if they see a violation of international law.

Predominantly South African plaintiffs, victims of racial segregation and violence in the country, maintained that Daimler, Rheinmetall and other firms had supported the apartheid regime through their close business ties with the South African government in the 1970s and 1980s, including the sale of cars and munitions.

Questions remain

A spokesman for the two German companies hailed the ruling, welcoming the legal clarity that had finally been established after years of fierce recriminations.

"We hope that this decision will finally bring to an end more than ten years of legal dispute," Daimler said in a statement.

But the US judge did not immediately dismiss similar claims made against US companies Ford Motor and IBM, who were not immediately available for comment.

hg/bk (dpa, Reuters)

DW.DE