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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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9 December 2003

Human rights for all people for all times

Author: Amnesty International Secretary General, Irene Khan [adapted from speech at Novartis conference]

Amnesty International has been working on the issue of human rights and business for over 10 years...We work in a variety of ways, some more controversial than others, ranging from mass mobilisation to tabling shareholder resolutions and participating in voluntary schemes like the Global Reporting Initiative and the UN Global Compact to dialogue and training of corporate actors. [refers to BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Cape plc, Unocal]

Read the full post here

24 November 2003

Slave Labor? Unocal is being sued in the U.S. for ignoring abuses in Burma. It's the next globalization battle

Author: Adam Zagorin, Time

...But TIME has obtained unsealed court documents that challenge the company's assertion. A Unocal consultant warned the firm in 1992 that "throughout Burma, the government habitually makes use of forced labor..." [also refers to Total, Fresh Del Monte Produce, ExxonMobil]

🚫Read the full post here

19 August 2003

Multinationals and accountability

Author: Alan Boyd, Asia Times

[refers to recently-adopted U.N. norms on business & human rights; U.N. Global Compact; lawsuits in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Claims Act]

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3 August 2003

U.S. Courts' role in foreign feuds comes under fire

Author: Adam Liptak, New York Times

[refers to lawsuits brought under Alien Tort Claims Act against companies allegedly connected with human rights abuses; includes reference to lawsuits against ExxonMobil and Unocal]

🚫Read the full post here

7 July 2003

Laws of Empire

Author: David Moberg, In These Times

Now the Bush administration, acting on behalf of major multinational corporations, is planning to block that rare option [Alien Tort Claims Act lawsuit] for legal redress of international human rights violations. [refers to lawsuits against: Unocal, Coca-Cola, Drummond, ExxonMobil]

🚫Read the full post here

2 June 2003

A Needed Human Rights Law [USA]

Author: editorial, New York Times

...the Alien Tort Claims Act - now the Justice Department wants to end the law's use in such suits [lawsuits alleging companies engaged in serious human rights abuses abroad]...To stop lawsuits under this act would be to put abusive individuals and companies above the law.

🚫Read the full post here

1 March 2003

Oil and Human Rights - Environmental and Human Rights Impacts of the ONG Industry [oil & natural gas industry]

Author: Ayesha Dias, Bureau for Development Policy (Democratic Governance) UNDP

...every stage of [the oil & natural gas sector] activity, from exploration exploitation, refining, manufacturing, storage, transportation and fuel use is fraught with environmental and social consequences – local, regional and global...The application of the Declaration to various non-state actors is staunchly supported by human rights scholars such as Professor Louis Henkin who, speaking of the universal nature of the Declaration’s preamble contends that “every individual includes judicial persons. Every individual and every organ of society excludes no one, no country, no market, no cyberspace. The Universal Declaration applies to them all”. [refers to Exxon (part of ExxonMobil), Shell, Chevron, Unocal, Texaco (part of Chevron), BP Amoco, Talisman, TotalFinaElf (Total), Norsk Hydro]

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1 February 2003

ExxonMobil in Aceh [Indonesia]

Author: Down to Earth Newsletter

In Aceh, where security concerns forced ExxonMobil's gas operations to close down for several months in 2001, a peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), has been given a cautious welcome...For Acehnese living near the ExxonMobil operations in North Aceh, the deal will hopefully reduce the numbers of Indonesian troops stationed to guard the site, although post-Bali fears of terrorist attacks may well persuade ExxonMobil and Jakarta that current numbers should be maintained. This is the security force that stands accused of subjecting local people to torture, killings and disappearances, prompting a lawsuit against ExxonMobil in the US

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31 January 2003

[PDF] Legal Issues in Corporate Citizenship

Author: Halina Ward, International Institute for Environment and Development

Mandatory legislation on various aspects of business transparency is emerging around the world. It can form part of company law, environmental regulation, or tailored legislation for institutional investors or on social and environmental reporting. Pressure for enhanced public sector accountability has also given rise to calls for company reporting on revenues paid to host government by companies in the extractive industries...A new wave of legal actions – mostly in US courts, but also in some EU countries – is testing the boundaries of existing legal principles in relation to some of the most difficult issues of the CSR agenda. For example, a series of cases in the US, France and Belgium are testing how fundamental principles of international law – particularly human rights law – apply to parent companies of multinational corporate groups.

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25 January 2003

Abuse of 18th Century Law Threatens U.S. Economic and Security Interests

Author: Daniel T. Griswold, Associate Director of Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute

...in the last two decades, critics of global capitalism have turned the law [Alien Tort Claims Act] against U.S. corporations doing business in countries whose governments have been accused of human rights and environmental abuses. [refers to lawsuits against Unocal, Chevron, ExxonMobil, IBM, General Motors, Ford, Westinghouse]

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