Two ex-Ford Argentina executives were convicted on charges of torture earlier this week. The victims’ lawyers claim that their clients were tortured at a local plant during the country’s dictatorship in the 1970s, while also adding that they might sue Ford in a U.S. federal court.
During a telephone interview with Reuters, one of the lawyers, Tomas Ojea Quintana stated that this marks the first time when former executives of a multinational company have been convicted of crimes against humanity in Argentina.
“It is clear that Ford Motor Company had control of the Argentinian subsidiary during the ’70s. Therefore, there is a direct responsibility of Ford Motor Company and that might give us the possibility to bring the case to the U.S. courts,” said the lawyer.
The lawsuit says that 24 workers employed by Ford were kidnapped and tortured at the automaker’s factory on the outskirts of Buenos Aires during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. For their involvement in these crimes, former Ford executives Pedro Muller and Hector Sibilla were sentenced to 10 and 12 years in prison respectively.
The pair were accused of providing photographs, home addresses and other personal data of the victims to agents of the dictatorship, which facilitated their abduction. They also “allowed a detention center to be set up inside the premise of that factory, in the recreational area, so that the abductees could be interrogated.”
“There they were handcuffed, beaten and had their faces covered so they could not see who was interrogating them.”
As for taking this case to Ford’s own backyard, according to Kevin Clermont, a law professor at Cornell University, the victims will have a hard time getting it past the U.S. statute of limitations, which usually only allows claims no older than six years for civil lawsuits.
Meanwhile, Ford Argentina released a statement claiming that it was not part of the case and had participated fully with prosecutors.