An Argentine court on Tuesday convicted two ex-executives of a local Ford Motor plant of involvement in the torture of employees during the country’s dictatorship in the 1970s, victims’ lawyers stated, adding they may sue the automaker in U.S. federal court.
This is first time ever that former executives of a multinational company employed in Argentina during the dictatorship have been convicted of crimes against humanity, one of the lawyers, Tomas Ojea Quintana, informed Reuters in a telephone interview.
“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,” Ojea Quintana stated.
Ford Argentina stated it was not part of the case and had participated entirely with prosecutors.
Legal experts stated the Argentinian Ford employees would face an uphill battle in bringing a successful U.S. lawsuit.
The case is associated with the 1976 kidnapping and torture of 24 workers employed by Ford at their factory located outskirts of Buenos Aires during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.
Former local Ford executives Pedro Muller and Hector Sibilla were sentenced to 10 and 12 years in prison, for their association in the crimes, Elizabeth Gomez Alcorta, a lawyer representing the victims, informed Reuters following the sentencing.
Muller and Sibilla were alleged of giving photographs, home addresses and other personal information of the victims to agents of the dictatorship so they could be abducted.
The duo further “allowed a detention center to be set up inside the premises of that factory, in the recreational area, so that the abductees could be interrogated,” court papers noted.
“There they were handcuffed, beaten and had their faces covered so they could not see who was interrogating then,” the accusation against Muller and Sibilla noted.