A US District Judge ruled that several companies can be sued by apartheid victims for ‘aiding and abetting’ the regime

A US judge has ruled that lawsuits can be brought against a number of multinational corporations accused of aiding South Africa's apartheid regime.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin rejected assertions by several countries that the lawsuits should not proceed, according to reports.

The decision related to lawsuits filed around seven years ago on behalf of victims of apartheid.

The ruling means that companies, known to have supplied the South African security forces at the time with equipment used to suppress dissent, can be sued by thousands of apartheid victims for "aiding and abetting the apartheid."

The judge dismissed complaints against Barclays Bank and Swiss bank UBS, but said plaintiffs could proceed with lawsuits against IBM, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, German arms manufacturer Rheinmetal and Japanese computer company Fujitsu.

The plaintiffs, at least thousands of people seeking unspecified damages, allege the automakers supplied military vehicles that let securities forces suppress black South Africans, according to the Associated Press. IBM is accused of providing equipment used to track dissidents, said the report.

Plaintiff lawyers praised the ruling.