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Del Monte Accused Of Rights Abuse, Bribery, Orchestrating Killing And Coverups

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The High Court yesterday began hearing the case in which multinational food giant Del Monte has been sued by human rights groups and victims of abuses over accusations of killings and assaults at its vast pineapple plantation scattering in Kiambu, Murang’a and Machakos counties.

In a petition before Justice Florence Muchemi of Thika High Court, the food processor security guards have been accused of orchestrating multiple killings of trespassers and violently attacking others on its pineapple farm.

“Individuals who have been reported missing after trespassing through Del Monte have been found, beaten, tortured, killed and drowned in dams within Del Monte, their lifeless bodies tied up with stones to sink them deep into the dams,” the petitioners said in a section of the documents filed in court.

The numerous petitioners have cited Del Monte Kenya Limited, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inspector General of the National Police Service, Director of Criminal Investigations, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Interior, Security and Coordination of National government as respondents in the matter.

In the petition, the giant company is also locked in a seething land ownership row with the local community members who claim the firm’s land as its ancestral home.

The petitioners who seek compensation for the punitive damages meted on the local community also want the High Court to rule that the actions of the company are violations of human rights, constitutional and environmental laws.

According to the petitioners, thieves have been beaten to death by Del Monte guards, drowned in dams and dumped in the nearby river while others claim to have suffered various injuries at the hands of guards in separate incidents over the past few years.

They accuse the company of failing to train its guards to act in lawful methods while conducting security enforcement operations, a situation that continues to pose threats of gross violations to the bill of rights and the sovereignty of Kenyans.

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In the virtual hearing, Delmonte Kenya Limited and Fresh Del Monte Produce however applied to have the petition dismissed over claims that the High Court has no jurisdiction to determine the matter and that the petition was incompetently filed before the court.

Fresh Del Monte Produce particularly cited that the court has no territorial jurisdiction to determine the petition as they are not based in Kenya.

Justice Muchemi, in her direction, ordered that the application of whether or not her court has jurisdiction will be determined first.

She further ordered that the lawyers representing the petitions and who opposed the application to file their replies within 14 days.

During the virtual hearing, the lawyers representing the victims led by Tom Macharia and Mbiyu Kamau expressed concern that a heavy contingent of armed police officers blocked the petitioners from accessing the court. On the issue, Justice Muchemi ordered the High Court’s deputy registrar to investigate the matter and make a report to her.

The matter will be mentioned on March 14 when the court will verify compliance of the orders given.

The petition comes at a time when police are investigating possibilities of foul play after bodies of four men were discovered on Christmas Eve in a river near the Delmonte firm.

A postmortem report conducted after the discovery revealed that three of the four had drowned and bore signs of injuries.

Delmonte, in response to media enquiries, has been saying it is fully cooperating with police over recent allegations levelled against it.

“Delmonte Kenya is fully co-operating with Kenyan authorities as they continue to investigate the recent incident. Concurrently, we are conducting an internal investigation to ascertain the precise details surrounding the incident,” the company’s response to media enquiries read in sections.

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