To Know or Not To Know: Silent complicity in crimes against humanity in Argentina (1976–1983)

Abstract: The aim of this study is to challenge the widely-held assumption that members of the general board of a multinational corporation will not be aware of what is happening on the shop floor in their affiliates in other parts of the world, in particular when such actions have profound potential moral and/or legal implications. This assumption of ‘corporate ignorance’ is refuted by a case study documenting the information that members of the general board of a Dutch multinational received about crimes against humanity that were committed during the 1970s in Argentina, and, more specifically, in and around their local affiliate where workers were forcefully abducted and disappeared. In this historical case, members of the general board appear to have been fully aware of these crimes while knowingly ignoring and remaining indifferent to the involvement of their local affiliate. In hindsight, the multinational corporation they represented can, therefore, be viewed as ‘silently complicit’.