Latin America & Caribbean

Volkswagen 'allowed torture' under Brazil military rule

A view of the Volkswagen plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, July 13, 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The torture is alleged to have been carried out at the Volkswagen plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo

A group of former Volkswagen employees in Brazil has filed a civil lawsuit against the German carmaker.

The former employees accuse the firm of allowing its workers to be detained and tortured under Brazil's military rule from 1964 to 1985.

Twelve former workers say they were arrested and tortured at Volkswagen's huge factory in Sao Bernardo do Campo.

Volkswagen's subsidiary in Brazil has said that it is investigating the allegations.

"The company is contacting the parties involved to learn their versions about acts committed by former employees during the military dictatorship. Detailed investigations are being conducted," VW said in a statement to the AFP news agency.

Brazil's national truth commission last year found that abuse was rife under military rule.

More than 400 people were killed or disappeared between 1964 and 1985. Many others were arrested and tortured.

Trade union and left-wing activists were among those targeted and a number of companies have been accused of colluding with the repression.

'Torture at work'

In its final report, published in December 2014, the truth commission described the case of Volkswagen employee Lucio Bellentani.

"I was at work when two people with machine guns came up to me," the communist activist said.

"They held my arms behind my back and immediately put me in handcuffs. As soon as we arrived in Volkswagen's security centre, the torture began. I was beaten, punched and slapped."

According to lawyer Rosa Cardoso, 12 employees at the Sao Bernardo do Campo site near Sao Paulo were tortured, while others were laid off and placed on blacklists.

When the allegations were published in the truth commission's report last year, Volkswagen said it was "pursuing any indication of possible involvement of the employees at Volkswagen do Brasil in human rights violations during the period of military dictatorship".

The firm, which is currently embroiled in a scandal after it was caught manipulating its diesel car emissions tests, has not yet responded to the news of the civil suit being filed.

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