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27 Jul 2022

Aisyah Llewellyn, Al Jazeera

US judge rules that ExxonMobil case about allegations of complicity in violence in Indonesia can go to trial after 21 years

"Indonesian ExxonMobil accusers get day in court after 21 years", 27 Jul 2022

A group of Indonesian villagers who are suing ExxonMobil for alleged human rights abuses will get their day in court after a judge ruled that their case can go to trial following more than two decades in legal limbo.

The 11 villagers from Aceh Province allege that they and their family members were tortured, sexually assaulted, raped and beaten in and around the ExxonMobil oil and gas plant located in the city of Lhoksukon during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In a summary judgement dated July 22, US District Judge Royce Lamberth denied in part ExxonMobil’s attempts to have the case dismissed, paving the way for the plaintiffs’ allegations to be heard in court.

The case has languished in the US courts system since 2001, when the villagers first filed a claim with the District Court for the District of Columbia, due to legal challenges by ExxonMobil and a chronic backlog of cases.

While the court’s reasoning remains under seal, it is believed that some of the claims of battery, assault, arbitrary arrest, detention, false imprisonment and conversion were denied in part due to the statute of limitations having expired.

Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said that it had been a long road getting to this point.

“I filed this case in 2001, 21 years ago, and finally we are going to get our day in court to obtain justice for our clients,” Collingsworth told Al Jazeera.

...ExxonMobil has denied being aware of any human rights violations at the time and argued it cannot be held responsible for any abuses that did occur as it did not order or authorise them.

...“While conducting its business in Indonesia, ExxonMobil has worked for generations to improve the quality of life in Aceh through employment of local workers, provision of health services and extensive community investment. The company strongly condemns human rights violations in any form,” [ExxonMobil spokesman Todd Spitler said in a statement].

...ExxonMobil... is alleged to have paid members of the Indonesian military $500,000 per month to guard its oil and gas plant in Lhoksukon during a long and bloody civil war between Acehnese separatists and the Indonesian Army.

The 11 plaintiffs allege that the security guards conducted sweeping raids in local villages, where they assaulted innocent residents under the pretext of rooting out suspected separatists...