US: Family of Protester Sues Caterpillar

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

The parents of a 23-year-old
activist killed while trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian
home have sued Caterpillar Inc., the company that made the bulldozer
that ran over her.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S.
District Court here, alleges that Caterpillar violated international
and state law by providing specially designed bulldozers to Israeli
Defense Forces, knowing the machines would be used to demolish homes
and endanger people.

Rachel Corrie, a student at The
Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., was standing in front of a
home in a refugee camp in Rafah, a Gaza Strip city near the Egyptian
border, on March 16, 2003, when a bulldozer plowed over her.

"The
brutal death of my daughter should never have happened," her mother,
Cindy Corrie, said in a statement released by the Center for
Constitutional Rights, one of the law firms handling the case. "We
believe Caterpillar and the (Israeli Defense Forces) must be held
accountable for their role in the attack."

Cindy and Craig
Corrie, who live in Olympia, are pursuing separate claims in Israel
against the state of Israel, the Israeli Defense Ministry and the
Israeli Defense Forces.

A statement issued Wednesday by the Israeli army in Jerusalem said
the lawsuit "has not yet been received by the defense establishment and
so we cannot take a stand, at the moment, on the content."

Caterpillar spokeswoman Linda Fairbanks said the company had no comment on the lawsuit.

However,
the company released a general, written statement Tuesday that said:
"Caterpillar shares the world's concern over unrest in the Middle East
and we certainly have compassion for all those affected by political
strife.

"However, more than 2 million Caterpillar machines
and engines are at work in virtually every region of the world each
day. We have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual
use of that equipment."

The statement made no mention of the lawsuit or Corrie's death.

An
Israeli army investigation concluded that Corrie's death was
accidental. Officials have said the driver of the machine could not see
the woman - a claim activists have fiercely disputed.

In the
past four years, Israel has used Caterpillar bulldozers to topple more
than 4,000 Palestinian homes, killing and injuring people in the
process, according to the New York-based Center for Constitutional
Rights.

Human rights groups have condemned the demolition of Palestinian homes as a violation of international humanitarian law.

Last
month Israel abandoned the decades-old policy of destroying the homes
of Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen, saying it was ineffective.
Before then, Israeli officials said the military destroyed only homes
of those with established links to terrorism. Israel has characterized
the International Solidarity Movement, the group Rachel Corrie was
working with when she was killed, as meddlers whose activism in some
cases has amounted to abetting terrorism.

Last April,
hundreds of protesters in Peoria, Ill., used a wooden replica of a
bulldozer to re-enact Rachel Corrie's death during a demonstration
outside Caterpillar's headquarters.

That demonstration came a
week after the Stop CAT Coalition organized a similar protest outside
Caterpillar's annual meeting in Chicago, where shareholders rejected a
resolution calling for a review of whether providing bulldozers to
Israel violates the company's code of conduct.

Gwynne
Skinner, a partner with the Public Interest Law Group and an adjunct
professor in the Ronald J. Peterson Law Clinic at Seattle University's
law school, is one of the lawyers on the Corries' legal team. She said
they hope Caterpillar will admit it is partially responsible for their
daughter's death and stop providing Israel with bulldozers.

"Caterpillar
knew that its equipment was being used to commit human rights
violations, knew that Rachel Corrie and other civilians were
foreseeable victims of these human rights violations, and even with
that knowledge ... they continued to supply that equipment," Skinner
said.

The Corries are seeking unspecified damages.

In
a telephone interview Tuesday night, Cindy Corrie said Caterpillar
speaks "to being a good global citizen on their Web site and that there
are things that need to be looked at other than profits, and we'd like
to see them live up to that."

AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering
  • 116 Human Rights