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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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All components of this story

Article
8 August 2002

Individuals struggle to hold corporations accountable for abuses

Author: Shravanti Reddy, Digital Freedom Network

...despite the villagers' efforts, the US government has recently made an attempt to block the ExxonMobil lawsuit claiming that it will hurt US relations with Jakarta, whom they consider an important ally in their war against terror.

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Article
8 August 2002

Text of the Lawsuit Against ExxonMobil: I [part 1 of 2]

Author: Laksamana.Net [Indonesia]

[lawsuit in U.S. court concerning the company's alleged conduct in Aceh]: The complete text of the disputed lawsuit against ExxonMobil for its alleged complicity in human rights abuses in Aceh province

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Article
8 August 2002

Text of the Lawsuit Against ExxonMobil: II [Part 2 of 2]

Author: Laksamana.Net [Indonesia]

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Article
8 August 2002

U.S. Backs Oil Giant on Lawsuit in Indonesia

Author: Jane Perlez, New York Times

The State Department is urging a United States court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a human rights group against Exxon Mobil over its operations in a war-torn province of Indonesia. In response to a request by the corporation for an opinion, the department declared that pursuit of the case would harm Washington's campaign against terrorism.

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Article
7 August 2002

U.S./Indonesia: Bush Backtracks on Corporate Responsibility

Author: Human Rights Watch

The U.S. State Department has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the Exxon Mobil Corporation for its alleged complicity in human rights violations in Indonesia, raising questions about the Bush administration's commitment to corporate responsibility, Human Rights Watch said today..."It is the height of hypocrisy for the State Department to publicly promote human rights principles for the oil and gas industry and then tell a judge that scrutiny of an oil company's human rights record runs counter to foreign policy," said Roth [Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch]

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Article
6 August 2002

U.S. Moves to Block Human-Rights Lawsuit Against Exxon Mobil

Author: Tom Wright, Dow Jones Newswires

The U.S. has moved to block a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. for alleged human-rights abuses at its Indonesian natural-gas operations, claiming the court action could hurt relations with Jakarta and undermine the war on terrorism.

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Article
5 August 2002

US tries to halt rights suit against Exxon

Author: Edward Alden, Financial Times

The US is trying to quash a human rights lawsuit launched by Indonesian villagers against Exxon Mobil, claiming it could undermine the war on terrorism.

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Article
2 August 2002

State Department Adopts "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" Stance in Case that Pits Indonesian Villagers Against Exxon Mobil

Author: Lawyers Committee for Human Rights

The U.S. Department of State has warned a U.S. District Court that opening proceedings in the lawsuit Doe vs. Exxon Mobil Corporation could harm the Indonesian economy and U.S. interests...The Lawyers Committee deplores the position of the State Department...While concerns about Indonesia’s economy and U.S. investment there are understandable, LCHR rejects the implication that this investment can come at the cost of human rights protection. Companies should not be immune from prosecution for human rights violations in their operations at home or abroad.

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Article
29 July 2002

full text of U.S. State Department letter: Text of State Department Opinion Regarding ExxonMobil Litigation

Author: letter from U.S. State Dept. Legal Adviser to Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer

[download from homepage of International Labor Rights Fund, under section entitled "New in News and Press"]

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Article
16 July 2002

Exxon Under Fire in Indonesia

Author: Jane Perlez, Moscow Times

Exxon Mobil is also the object of a lawsuit filed on behalf of villagers who accuse the company of turning a blind eye to brutality by Indonesian soldiers, who have a long history of human rights abuses and have been paid to ensure the plant's security. The company denies the charges. But the suit and Exxon Mobil's travails in Indonesia encapsulate the problems faced by big companies that do business under the protection of ill-trained foreign armies, in places where the United States has strategic interests.

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