Chiquita has said in the past that it paid money to guarantee protection for its workers in Colombia's banana-producing regions.


The lawsuit was lodged the same day that Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's president, was lobbying in Washington for a bilateral free trade deal.


"I guess this is the one scenario where I would support the death penalty - the death of a truly evil corporation"

Terry Collingsworth, an attorney with International Rights Advocates

"In the last 10 years, more than 10,000 people have been murdered by the AUC, many of them in the banana zones where Chiquita financed the AUC's operations," Collingsworth said.


In April, Chiquita agreed to pay a $25m in fines after pleading guilty to one count of engaging in transactions with a designated global terrorist group.


Chiquita was accused of paying a total of $1.7m to the AUC from 1997 to 2004.


The company has also acknowledged past payments to Farc, a left-wing rebel group.


The lawyers maintained that admitting the payment opened the company up to potential litigation.


"Putting Chiquita on trial for hundreds or even thousands of murders could put them out of business," said Collingsworth.


"I guess this is the one scenario where I would support the death penalty - the death of a truly evil corporation."


'Terrorist' organisation


The AUC is designated a terrorist organisation by several countries, including Colombia and the US.


Senior supporters of Uribe have also been accused of close links with the AUC.


Uribe has repeatedly rebutted claims that he had personal links to the AUC when he was governor of the Antioquia province in the 1990s.


Colombia's paramilitary groups were organised as private armies in the 1980s, and aimed to protect landholders from left-wing fighters who were extorting "war taxes".


The AUC have since been accused of killing civilians and of drug trafficking.


The group began a process of disarmament in 2003.