'No precedent'

The lawsuit argues that the companies which produced cars knew that their vehicles were being used by South African forces to violently suppress protests.

They also say that companies such as IBM knew its computers were being used by South Africa's white-minority government to help strip black citizens of their rights.

Kristen Saloomey, Al Jazeera's correspondent at the courthouse, said: "Attorneys for these companies ... were arguing on the grounds that the court doesn't have jurisdiction to hear this case, and more extensively that corporations can't be held liable for human rights abuses.

"One of the points that they make is that no company has ever been found liable for human rights abuses and they are saying that there is no precedent to go forward on this case.

"They differentiated between holding individuals accountable and state actors accountable."

Saloomey said the main judge advised that he would take the arguments into consideration and would issue a written judgement in a matter of weeks, possibly months.  

'Abetting torture'

In April of last year, a judge ruled that the case could go to trial under a US law allowing rights claims from abroad to be addressed in US courts.

The 18th-century Alien Tort Claims Act allows non-US citizens to take legal action in the US concerning "violation[s] of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States".

The judge disagreed with arguments made by the companies that it was not their responsibility to tell clients how to use their products.

In a 144-page ruling, Judge Shira Scheindlen said the plaintiffs could pursue their claims against the companies for "for aiding and abetting torture ... extrajudicial killing, and apartheid".

Apartheid ended in 1994 when South Africa held its first free elections, bringing Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress to power.