Posted by sarahjinn on December 1, 2008
Corporate Accountability Advocates Claim Victory, Despite Verdict in Human Rights Case Against Chevron
Bowoto Case Showed There is a Legal Foundation For Corporations to be Held Liable in US Courts for Human Rights Abuses Committed Overseas
SAN FRANCISCOO Monday, December 1, a US district court jury acquitted San Ramon-based Chevron Corporation of complicity in human rights abuses. The case of Bowoto v. Chevron, which pitted Chevron and its relationship with the notoriously violent Nigerian police and military against Nigerians who peacefully protested the destruction of their environment and livelihood by Chevron’s oil production activities. Despite the verdict, corporate accountability advocates vowed to continue the struggle to bring Chevron and other corporations to justice for human rights violations they commit overseas.
“The fact that Bowoto v. Chevron made it this far in the process is a victory in and of itself, because it means that we have demonstrated that there is a clear pathway in the US court system for holding corporations accountable to the rule of law. This is the first time a case against a company for aiding and abetting human rights violations overseas has even gone before a jury. And although we are disappointed that the plaintiffs did not prevail in this case, we are heartened by the fact that we are now entering a new era in the United States and abroad where people have seen the results of unregulated corporate excess (in the financial system and elsewhere) and want corporations to be reined in to prevent serious harms. Bringing this case to trial in the United States is a step on the path to corporate accountability. In the near future, corporations will no longer have a free ride to do operate with impunity in ways that are destructive and dehumanizing,” said Laura Livoti, founder of the group Justice in Nigeria Now.
“Regardless of the verdict, the Bowoto v. Chevron case represented a watershed in terms of corporate accountability. The details of the Nigerian case – of human rights abuses in the global operations of the oil and gas industry – can be replicated many times over in different industrial sectors in different parts of the world. Now communities around the world know that they have recourse to legal mechanisms to bring corporations that violate their human rights to justice,” said Michael Watts, a professor at UC Berkeley and author of numerous books on the Niger Delta, including Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta.
Bowoto v. Chevron concerned a 1998 incident in which Nigerian soldiers and police shot unarmed residents of the Ilaje community in southern Nigeria who were staging a nonviolent sit-in at Chevron’s offshore Parabe Platform to demand that Chevron change its practices. Chevron’s operations have devastated local communities’ access to food and clean water. The protester also demanded that the company support the local economy by hiring local residents. In response to the peaceful protest, Chevron summoned the notoriously violent Nigerian police and military and transported them in Chevron helicopters to the oil platform. Under the supervision of Chevron personnel, the Nigerian military and police killed two protesters and permanently injured others. Several protesters were taken to Nigerian jails, where they were tortured.
The jury was charged with deciding whether Chevron aided and abetted the Nigerian military, in violation of international law. The legal basis for the case was the Alien Tort Statute, a law that enables foreign victims of human rights violations by corporations to hold a US corporation accountable in US court for violations of the law of nations overseas. The Alien Tort Statute has been used in cases charging Unocal with violating the human rights of Burmese villagers during the construction of an oil pipeline in Burma, and charging Yahoo with giving the Chinese government information that allowed it to identify and arrest a Chinese dissident. Both of those cases ended in out-of-court settlements. Bowoto v. Chevron would have been the first time a U.S. corporation has been held liable by a jury in U.S. courts for aiding and abetting human rights abuses committed overseas.
Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Uncategorized | Tagged: Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Niger Delta, Nigeria, Oil | 1 Comment »
Posted by sarahjinn on November 26, 2008
After spirited closing arguments yesterday by both attorneys for the plaintiffs and the defendants in the case of Bowoto v Chevron being tried in San Francisco, the 9-member jury for the Northern California District Court began deliberations late in the day. As of Wednesday afternoon at 1pm (when court closed for the holiday weekend) a verdict is still to be determined. For an account of the closing statements read the latest articles in the San Francisco Chronicle by Bob Egelkos and The LA Times piece by Richard Paddock
The jury will need to find liability on the part of Chevron for the killing, injury and torture of the Nigerian plaintiffs for the following violations under the Alien Tort Statute:
- Wrongful Death
- Cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment
Be sure to read the Bowoto v Chevron Blog for a full account of the court proceedings since the trial opened on October 27.
Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Oil | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sarahjinn on November 20, 2008
On Monday Chevron will present its final day of testimony and evidence. Closing arguments will be given on Tuesday, November 25 and jury deliberations will begin on Wednesday, November 26, the day before Thanksgiving. It’s unknown how long the jury will deliberate, but this landmark case could hear a verdict very soon.
We encourage those of you in the Bay Area to quietly and respectfully observe the closing arguments on Tuesday to show your solidarity with the Nigerian plaintiffs who have worked so hard to bring their case to Chevron’s home town. Go to 450 Golden Gate, 19th floor Courtroom 10 in San Francisco. Court is in session from 8:30am-3:30pm on Tuesday November 25.
Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Nigeria, Oil | 1 Comment »
Posted by sarahjinn on November 12, 2008
Ken Saro Wiwa Hanged by the Nigerian Government with 8 other activists:
Ken Saro Wiwa: October 10,1941 - November 10, 1995
This week marks the 13th anniversary of the death of famed Nigerian activist, Ken Saro Wiwa. On November 10, 1995 Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni activists, known as the Ogoni 9 were ruthlessly executed by the then Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha. Wiwa and his colleagues were members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) who peacefully protested against Shell Oil and the Nigerian government for human rights abuses and environmental damage in their community.
Early next year, Wiwa’s son will have his day in court in New York when it will be decided whether or not Royal Dutch Shell will be held liable for their complicity for human rights abuses against the Ogoni people in Nigeria, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrest, wrongful death, assault and battery, and infliction of emotional distress. Similar to the case against Chevron currently being heard in the Northern California Federal District Court, the two cases against Shell were brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). In addition, the Shell cases will be tried under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The cases also allege that the corporation violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, according to Earth Rights International, co-counsel for the case.
Wiwa was known for his ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters that successfully drove Shell out of their community. His death serves as a shift in Nigerian history when political and social unrest in the Niger Delta was addressed in a peaceful way to a gradual move toward a violent approach that faces the Niger Delta today. The current violence stems from decades of demands not being met, and corruption and divide and rule tactics that continue to tear the region apart. Violent responses were taken to new levels in 2006 with the formation of the well armed group – the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta known as MEND.
Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Chevron, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nigeria, Ogoni, Shell | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sarahjinn on October 30, 2008
Under a grey sky on October 27th, Larry Bowoto provided an improbable splash of colour in his Nigerian agbada gown before the federal courthouse in San Francisco. He is the lead plaintiff in a case against Chevron, an oil giant based in California, over something that happened in May 1998 on a platform operated by Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary, nine miles off the Niger Delta.
Bowoto v Chevron is likely to test how the American legal system can be applied to human rights in other countries. The civil suit is being brought under the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act, one of America’s oldest laws (it was signed by George Washington). The act allows foreigners to bring civil cases before American courts arising from violations of law or treaty anywhere in the world. It was invoked just twice before 1980, when it was used by a victim of state repression in Paraguay. Since then the act has been invoked in around 100 cases. In 1993 a case against Radovan Karadzic for crimes against humanity in Bosnia broadened its applicability to non-state actors. In 1996 a group of Burmese villagers brought a suit against Unocal, another oil company (subsequently bought by Chevron), over the use of forced labour by Burmese soldiers guarding the route of a gas pipeline. The case was settled in 2004. Go to Article
Posted in Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Nigeria, Uncategorized | Tagged: Alien Tort Statute, Bowoto v. Chevron, Niger Delta, Nigeria, Oil, The Economist | Leave a Comment »