Volkswagen Faces Torture Claims Dating to Military Rule
Volkswagen made international headlines following its admission that it developed software to defeat emissions detecting technology. But now, the German automobile maker is facing renewed scrutiny for older claims alleging different violations. Former Volkswagen employees in Brazil have filed a civil lawsuit against the company, claiming their former employer was complicit in the detention and torture of its Brazilian workers who opposed the country’s military regime, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The torture claims date to between 1964 and 1985, a time when the country was governed by military rule. During that regime, abuse was common. Brazil’s national truth commission found that more than 400 people were killed or disappeared during that time. President Dilma Rousseff, who was among those who survived arrest and torture, created the commission in 2012 to investigate abuses during the military rule.
Some of those who were subject to abuse, including Volkswagen workers, have accused companies of allowing the repression to happen. Lawyer Rosa Cardoso told AFP that 12 employees at the Volkswagen plant in San Bernardo do Campo were tortured. They claim that the company laid off others and placed them on black lists. Other companies are also likely to face legal scrutiny. Sebastião Neto, an official with The Workers’ Forum for Truth, Justice and Activism, told AFP that Volkswagen was “not the only company involved,” but it had a large role, at times even coordinating the activities of other companies.
The German carmaker, whose chief executive has resigned amidst the growing furor associated with the auto emissions scandal, has yet to respond to the civil suit on the torture claims. In a statement provided to AFP, the company said that it is contacting people to “learn their versions about acts committed by former employees during the military dictatorship.” According to Latin Post, rather than seeking case-by-case settlements, the plaintiffs are instead asking for “collective reparations” as compensation for Volkswagen’s alleged actions.
As the emissions problems deepen and erode Volkswagen’s market value and executive ranks, the company may need to settle the scandal of yesterday in order to devote its complete attention to the scandal of today.