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ExxonMobil lawsuit (re Aceh)

In 2001, eleven Indonesian villagers filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil in US federal court alleging that the company was complicit in human rights abuses committed by their security forces in the province of Aceh. In July 2015, after years of legal proceedings, a federal court ruled that the plaintiffs' claims could proceed in US court. The case is ongoing.

Indonesia troops guard ExxonMobilIn 2001, eleven Indonesian villagers filed suit against ExxonMobil in US federal court alleging that the company was complicit in human rights abuses committed by Indonesian security forces in the province of Aceh.  The plaintiffs maintain that ExxonMobil hired the security forces, who were members of the Indonesian military, to protect the natural gas extraction facility and pipeline which ExxonMobil was operating.  The plaintiffs further claim that ExxonMobil knew or should have known about the Indonesian military’s human rights violations against the people of Aceh.  The plaintiffs allege that they suffered human rights violations, such as murder, torture and rape, at the hands of these security forces. 

On October 14, 2005, a US federal judge ruled that the plaintiffs’ case may proceed on District of Columbia (DC) state law claims (which include wrongful death, theft by coercion and assault and battery), but he dismissed the plaintiffs’ federal claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.  On March 2, 2006, a US federal judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by ExxonMobil, and ordered the parties to proceed toward discovery in this case.  In January of 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied ExxonMobil's appeal of the lower court's denial of its motion to dismiss.  Additionally, the court of appeals denied ExxonMobil's petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the lower court to dismiss the claims against the company.  In July of 2007, ExxonMobil appealed to the US Supreme Court (petitioned for a writ of certiorari).  On 13 November 2007, the US Supreme Court invited the US Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the executive branch on this petition.  On 16 June 2008, the US Supreme declined to hear this case.  On 27 August 2008, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on a motion for summary judgment filed by ExxonMobil; the judge declined to grant the defendants’ motion.  The judge found that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient preliminary evidence to support their allegations of abuse and therefore the case should be submitted to a jury for trial.  On 30 September 2009, the US District Court ruled on another motion to dismiss from the defendants.  The judge granted ExxonMobil's motion to dismiss the case finding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case in a US court.  On 8 July 2011, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court's dismissal of the case, finding that a corporation should not be immune from liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The court remanded the lawsuit to the lower court.  ExxonMobil filed a motion with the Court of Appeals on 8 August 2011 asking the court to rehear the case en banc. 

In September 2014, a US federal court held that Indonesian villagers from the Aceh province can proceed with their claims against ExxonMobil.   In a decision issued in July 2015, a US federal court ruled that the plaintiffs' claims sufficiently "touch and concern" the United States and may proceed in US court.

- "Exxon Wants Rehearing in Corporate Liability Dispute", Mike Carcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 10 Aug 2011
- "Appeals Court Revives Torture Claims Against Exxon", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 8 Jul 2011
- "Judge Dismisses Indonesians' Lawsuit Against Exxon", Brent Kendall, Dow Jones, 30 Sep 2009
- “Judge Rejects Summary Judgment in Human Rights Lawsuit Against Exxon”, Mike Scarcella, Legal Times, 28 Aug 2008
- "Exxon faces lawsuit on killings in Indonesia", Bloomberg News, Associated Press, 17 Jan 2007
- "Exxon: Torture suit sets bad precedent", Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press, 8 Mar 2006
- “ExxonMobil Rejects Aceh Human Rights Abuse Claims”, Kirsty Alfredson, CNN.com, 22 Jun 2001

- ExxonMobil: Human Rights Policy

- Cohen, Milstein (co-counsel for the plaintiffs): ExxonMobil - Aceh, Indonesia

- International Rights Advocates (co-counsel for the plaintiffs): ExxonMobil: Case Summary (includes links to legal briefs filed in this case)

- [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Petition for Rehearing En Banc, 8 Aug 2011
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Reply Brief in Support of Petition, 23 Oct 2007
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Respondents’ Brief in Opposition, 9 Oct 2007
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, 20 Jul 2007

- US State Department: [PDF] Amicus Brief filed in Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil et al., 14 Jul 2003

- International Rights Advocates: [PDF] Complaint filed for Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil et.al., 11 Jun 2001

- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Opinion of the Court, 8 Jul 2011
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum Opinion, 30 Sep 2009
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum & Opinion, 27 Aug 2008
- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: [PDF] Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil, 12 Jan 2007

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3 August 2005

Liability Forges a New Morality

Author: Leon Gettler, The Age [Australia]

...the courts and the changing landscape for liability are transforming notions of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Liability now seems to be expanding over time, distance, supply chains and incorporation, and with the growth of legal activism and a growing class-actions industry, particularly in North America, CSR looks like turning into a risk management strategy. [refers to Unocal, Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical), James Hardie, Nike, Shell, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil]

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4 May 2005

Groups Call on ExxonMobil to be Transparent About its Relationship With Indonesian Military in Aceh; Urge Pension Fund Industry & Institutional Investors to Vote "Yes" on XOM Shareholder Resolution

Author: East Timor Action Network

Thirteen organizations have joined the Boards of Trustees of the New York City Pension Funds in urging ExxonMobil management to publish what it pays the Indonesian military (TNI) to "protect" the company's liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations in the Indonesian province of Aceh...The groups specifically target TIAA-CREF...

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13 April 2005

Proxy Statement - Item 6 – Aceh Security Report

Author: ExxonMobil

proposal...submitted by the New York City Teachers' Retirement System: "...shareholders request that management review and report to shareholders, by September, 2005, on the corporation's security arrangements with the Indonesian government and private security forces, including support, both monetary and in kind, to the Indonesian government and military..." ...The Board recommends you vote AGAINST this proposal...We condemn human rights violations in any form...we have specifically communicated to the government of Indonesia our opposition to human rights abuse in any form by any organization or individual.

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1 April 2005

[PDF] Business befriends human rights

Author: Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association, in European Lawyer

Companies and their legal advisers are waking up to the fact that upholding human rights not only creates a stable environment based on the rule of law, it is also vital for commercial success...[refers to Alien Tort Claims Act cases against Coca-Cola, Unocal, ExxonMobil, Nike, ChevronTexaco, Ford]

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24 March 2005

U.S.: Rights Advocates Hail 'Landmark' Settlement With American Corporation

Author: Jeffrey Donovan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Human rights advocates say the case [against Unocal regarding Burma]...could help make it easier for multinational corporations to be held accountable for human rights violations committed in the course of their work...Unocal has always denied it knew anything about the alleged abuse. But this week, the California firm and lawyers representing the plaintiffs announced they had reached an out-of-court settlement... [also refers to lawsuits against Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, Del Monte (Fresh Del Monte Produce), Total; also refers to Gap]

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11 March 2005

The Business of Torture

Author: Sam Vaknin, Ph.D & former economic advisor to the Govt. of Macedonia, in Global Politician

This [cases of alleged complicity of multinationals in torture] is merely one facet of the torture business. [refers to ExxonMobil, Shell, IBM, ICL, Unocal] Torture implements are produced - mostly in the West - and sold openly, frequently to nasty regimes in developing countries and even through the Internet. [StunTech]

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25 January 2005

Advocates: Tsunami aid only part of picture

Author: Todd Mason, Knight Ridder Newspapers [USA]

...tsunami aid may be a poor guide for the investor who considers himself socially responsible. The five largest companies in the Calvert Social Index, designed by the Calvert Group mutual-fund family to track socially responsible stocks, have made impressive pledges, but so have the five largest companies spurned by Calvert. [Calvert index includes Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, IBM; omits General Electric. Article also refers to ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola]

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15 December 2004

Foreign crimes come home to the US

Author: Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service

Lawsuits based on a 200-year-old US law appear to have persuaded oil company Unocal to compensate alleged victims of human-rights abuses committed by Myanmar soldiers during the building of an oil pipeline. [also refers to Total, Myanmar state oil company (Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise [MOGE]), ExxonMobil, Shell]

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12 December 2004

Globalization Debate: Broken Promises Vs. Free Trade Mantra

Author: Mark Gruenberg, International Labor Communications Association

Increased globalization of economies has brought a string of broken promises to the world's workers, a top human rights advocate says--even as a backer of globalization chanted "free trade" as a mantra to solve all problems.

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20 November 2004

Human rights: Can multinationals be held accountable?

Author: Ron Chepesiuk, National Defense College, Bangladesh, in Daily Star [Bangladesh]

...little effort has been made to make the multinationals accountable for what they do in interest of profit. But times are changing, thanks to a coalition consisting of plaintiffs from the developing world and aggressive human rights groups...[that] are taking multinationals from all over the world to court on the issue of human rights. [refers to Unocal, IBM, Shell, Coca Cola, Panamco (part of Coca-Cola FEMSA), CACI, Titan, ExxonMobil, Drummond, Occidental Petroleum, Del Monte (Fresh Del Monte Produce), DaimlerChrysler, BAT, Rothmans of Pall Mall]

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