According to Fresh Del Monte, they cannot be held responsible for a civil lawsuit accusing their Kenyan pineapple farm’s security guards of murder, rape, and violence as they are based in the Cayman Islands.
On Thursday, in the Thika high court, attorneys representing Del Monte Kenya, the company’s Kenyan branch, also requested for the dismissal of a lawsuit against the farm.
On December 30, a group of human rights organizations filed a civil lawsuit in Kenya against Fresh Del Monte and Del Monte Kenya on behalf of ten individuals.
This passage details instances of Del Monte’s security personnel engaging in violence against individuals who have trespassed on the 40 sq km farm spanning three counties. The reported actions include assault, beating, torture, mutilation, sexual violence, and/or murder.
The legal proceeding came after reports by the Guardian that Del Monte Kenya representatives were implicated in offering bribes to hide the details surrounding the deaths of four men who had attempted to steal pineapples from the company’s farm in December. The article was a result of a joint investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism into accusations of brutality and fatalities committed by the farm’s security personnel.
A court in Kenya will need to decide next month if Fresh Del Monte can be held accountable in the country for a petition accusing the company and its Kenyan branch of committing human rights abuses, such as murder and torture of individuals caught stealing pineapples from its farm.
According to Mwangi Macharia, a legal representative for the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action (ACCPA), one of the parties involved in the lawsuit, it is unacceptable for Del Monte to claim they cannot be held accountable because they are located in the Cayman Islands, yet they are able to operate pineapple farms in Africa.
According to court documents, Samir Inamdar, a lawyer representing Fresh Del Monte, stated that Del Monte Kenya is a fully owned subsidiary registered in Kenya, while the parent company is incorporated in George Town, Cayman Islands, which falls outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Kiragu Kimani, a legal representative for Del Monte Kenya, contended that the claim did not meet the required legal criteria. He stated that this matter should be resolved before any additional claimants are included. In a written submission to the court, Del Monte Kenya stated that the case should be dismissed as it lacks merit and is deemed “baseless, shameful, trivial, and harassing.”
Relatives of the victims reportedly assaulted by Del Monte security guards gathered outside the Thika court for the Thursday session. Despite heavy rain, a large number of police officers prevented some family members from entering the compound.
The attorneys representing the individuals who filed the claim brought up the matter of the police being present in front of Lady Justice Florence Muchemi. She stated that it would be looked into.
Macharia Kamau, a representative from ACCPA, informed the court that this morning they encountered a excessive and unbalanced presence of police officers who had blocked the road leading to Thika highway. He noted the presence of one truck and six police vehicles at the entrance of Thika town, and another group stationed at the main entrance of the Thika law courts. The officers were heavily armed and there was a third group outside the court. As a result, fifty of their clients were forced to wait in the rain due to the large police presence.
He stated, “My clients are nonviolent and have been subjected to violence, which is why they are in court. It would only worsen their suffering to face heavily armed police while seeking justice.”
Roda Wayua Kimeu, the mother of one of the four bodies found in a river near the farm during Christmas, was present at the court hearing. Although her son’s case is not included in the lawsuit, she is one of several individuals hoping that Del Monte will be held accountable for other accusations of violence.
Benjamin Kilule, whose brother Francis Ngoki Kilule also passed away following the December incident, was present at the hearing. He expressed hopefulness, despite his brother’s case not being included, stating, “At least we can see progress being made in the pursuit of justice.”