Corrie v. Caterpillar, Inc.

16 March 2005 marked the two year anniversary of the death of a young American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, who was killed by the IOF when a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer in Rafah, Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), ran her over. 

On this day the Center for Constitutional Rights and partnering law firms filed a federal lawsuit against US based Caterpillar, Inc.  The complaint was filed on behalf of Cynthia and Craig Corrie (the parents of Rachel Corrie) alleging that Caterpillar, Inc. violated international and state law by providing the specially designed bulldozers to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

PCHR has been involved in this case since the tragic death of Rachel Corrie including taking affidavits.  PCHR’s Legal Unit also regularly takes on pro bono cases on behalf of Palestinians who have suffered under the IDF’s house demolition policy.

The lawsuit is a civil action for compensatory and punitive damages against Caterpillar, Inc. and sets out the following claims for relief: (1) war crimes; (2) aiding and abetting extra-judicial killing; (3) complicity in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that resulted in death; (4) wrongful death; and (5) negligence.

The lawsuit alleges that Caterpillar, Inc. has aided and abetted or otherwise been complicit in the IDF human rights’ violations and war crimes.

Caterpillar had:

·        constructive notice of such violations since at least 1989, and likely before, when human rights groups began to publicly condemn the demolitions.

·        actual notice that the bulldozers it was supplying have been used to commit crimes in violation of international law since 2001 when human rights groups and concerned US citizens began notifying Caterpillar that it was aiding and abetting violations of international law.

Despite this, Caterpillar continued to:

·        supply bulldozers used to demolish houses;

·        lease bulldozers/renew leases;

·        supply significant parts for the bulldozers or repairs made to bulldozers or training manuals regarding the equipment; and/or

·        Caterpillar had a right to recall the bulldozers but failed to do so. 

Caterpillar’s Actions and their failure to withdraw the machines occurred after Caterpillar was on actual or constructive notice that its bulldozers were being used to commit human rights violations.  Caterpillar’s Actions allowed the IOF to use Caterpillar bulldozers to commit the human rights abuses that, along with the injuries, are the subject of the lawsuit. 

In the alternative, the lawsuit alleges that Caterpillar’s actions and omissions allowed the IOF to use the Caterpillar bulldozers in the incident against Rachel Corrie specifically.   

The lawsuit alleges that through Caterpillar’s actions and omissions they are directly responsible for war crimes; aided, abetted, conspired in, confirmed, or ratified IDF’s war crimes; aided and abetted extra-judicial killing; and complicit in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment resulting in death. 

Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant is liable for violations of customary international law and treaty law prohibiting the commission of human rights violations and war crimes and the Court has jurisdiction over this action based on 28 U.S.C. 1331[1].  Plaintiffs further allege that Defendant is liable for extra-judicial killing as defined by customary international law and the Torture Victim Protection Act (1992) (codified at 28 U.S.C 1350, note). 

PCHR strongly support this landmark lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights.  PCHR hopes that it will be the first step in lifting the veil of impunity that has been provided to the IDF soldiers, the IDF and the Israeli Government for their violations against Rachel Corrie but also the Palestinian civilian population at large which has and continues to suffer tremendously as result of the IOF’s house demolition policy.

For further information on the lawsuit please follow the link to Center for Constitutional Rights which has a copy of the complaint filed in full and other information on the lawsuit on their website: www.ccr-ny.org

     


 

[1] “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States”.