ExxonMobil lawsuit (re Aceh)

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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Article
31 December 2002

[PDF] Judging Corporate Accountability in theGlobal Economy

Author: Elliot J. Schrage, Adjunct Senior Fellow in Business and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School, in Columbia Journal of Transnational Law

Simply slamming the door on those seeking relief in U.S. courts is bad foreign policy, bad economic policy, and bad legal practice...An effective policy would harness the power of private litigation in U.S. courts as a vehicle for encouraging other countries and the corporations that operate in them to promote respect for the rule of law and improve the administration of justice. [refers to Barclays, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Gap, General Motors, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Levi Strauss, Pfizer, Statoil, Talisman, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Unocal]

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Article
29 August 2002

Powell's Awkward Position [USA/Aceh-Indonesia]

Author: Mary McGrory, Washington Post

A State Department ruling this month sent a shudder through the human rights community. Legal counsel William H. Taft IV asked U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Exxon Mobil of terrorizing Indonesian villagers who somehow thwart the world's biggest oil company. The suit, brought by the International Labor Rights Fund, cited murder, torture and rape.

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Article
26 August 2002

Letter to Secretary Powell [U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell] Regarding Aceh Lawsuit [Indonesia]

Author: letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from 13 public interest groups

We are writing to express our extreme concern with the July 29th opinion issued by the Office of the Legal Advisor of the US Department of State to the Honorable Louis F. Oberdorfer, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, in response to his request for the Department’s views in connection with the case Doe et.al. v. ExxonMobil...We view such a response from the State Department as an act that clearly subordinates human rights concerns to commercial interests.

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Article
13 August 2002

company's website: Statement Regarding NGO Human Rights Lawsuit

Author: ExxonMobil

[regarding the company's alleged conduct in Aceh, Indonesia]

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Article
13 August 2002

Statement Regarding NGO Human Rights Lawsuit - Aceh, Indonesia

Author: ExxonMobil

We are disturbed by allegations that ExxonMobil or its affiliate companies are in any way involved with human rights abuses in Aceh, and will continue to vigorously defend ourselves. ExxonMobil condemns the violation of human rights in any form. We believe the lawsuit...containing these allegations is without merit...We are deeply troubled about the violence in North Aceh...We believe our presence has been a stabilizing force in the region. [also refers to Pertamina]

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Article
12 August 2002

U.S. Government Tries to Kill Human-Rights Case against ExxonMobil

Author: Ethics Newsline, Institute for Global Ethics

Government says case over Indonesian abuses could endanger U.S. business and anti-terrorism interests

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Article
12 August 2002

U.S. Government Tries to Kill Human-Rights Case against ExxonMobil

Author: Ethics Newsline, Institute for Global Ethics

Government says case over Indonesian abuses could endanger U.S. business and anti-terrorism interests

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Article
8 August 2002

ExxonMobil Responds

Author: Laksamana.Net [Indonesia]

With the US government firmly on its side, energy giant ExxonMobil claims allegations of human rights abuses filed against it in a lawsuit on behalf of 11 villagers in Aceh province are groundless.

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Article
8 August 2002

ExxonMobil welcomes US backing on Aceh human rights lawsuit

Author: AFX News

Exxon Mobil Corp rejected suggestions that the US government had acted inappropriately in urging the dismissal of a lawsuit against the oil company over its operations in Indonesia.

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Article
8 August 2002

Groups Shocked as Officials Urge Judge to Back ExxonMobil

Author: Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service

News that the [U.S.] State Department urged a federal court judge to dismiss the case after he asked about claims by ExxonMobil's lawyers that the lawsuit could compromise U.S. interests, particularly the 'war on terrorism', has shocked the human rights community.

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