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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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20 June 2006

[PDF] Win or Lose in Court

Author: Bill Baue, Business Ethics magazine [USA]

...[The US Alien Tort Claims Act] has the potential to dramatically increase corporate accountability for human-rights abuses...Is it the silver bullet human-rights activists hope for — or just a weak weapon, as some multinational corporations might want to believe? "I think ATCA is the only effective tool out there right now for advancing corporate respect for human rights, and I think it will continue to be a very effective tool,” says Terry Collingsworth, executive director of the International Labor Rights Fund...Collingsworth’s view has yet to be validated by the courts. [refers to cases against Texaco (now part of Chevron), Unocal (now part of Chevron), Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil]

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24 May 2006

Stand up to rights abuse, Exxon tells executives

Author: Bloomberg, in Gulf Times [Qatar]

ExxonMobil Corp, the world’s largest oil company, is instructing managers of its wells, platforms, refineries and pipelines to stand up to governments that abuse citizens in communities where the company operates. ExxonMobil is requiring expatriate managers to condemn human rights violations, promote equal treatment of women and oppose child labour. The company is also increasing training for private security guards who protect its executives and installations, said Andre Madec, ExxonMobil’s global community-relations manager. The new human-rights policy wasn’t inspired by the 2001 lawsuit filed by Indonesian villagers who claimed they were brutalised by troops providing security at a company-operated gas field, Madec said in a telephone interview.

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21 April 2006

ExxonMobil - Corporate Citizenship

Author: ExxonMobil

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17 April 2006

ExxonMobil in Aceh

Author: Michael Renner, Senior Researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, Board Member at the Global Policy Forum

U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer issued an important ruling. He allowed a case against ExxonMobil, brought by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), to go forward...The case is part of a larger struggle for peace, justice, and corporate accountability in Aceh, where an armed conflict for independence raged from 1976 until 2005...Like so many other extractive industry operations in the world, ExxonMobil has the trappings of a state within a state. Its facilities are fenced off from surrounding communities.

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13 March 2006

Abuses by int'l firms in RI [Republic of Indonesia] to be raised with UN

Author: Tb. Arie Rukmantara, Jakarta Post

Indonesian environmentalists plan to discuss pollution and rights abuse by multinational companies during the upcoming UN Human Rights Commission meetings in Geneva... Among the issues to be raised is the government's failure to properly addressed pollution by PT Freeport Indonesia [part of Freeport-McMoRan] in Papua and PT Newmont Minahasa Raya [part of Newmont Mining] in North Sulawesi. [also refers to lawsuit against ExxonMobil re Aceh]... All these companies have denied the allegations against them, saying that they have abided by Indonesian regulations on the environment and have not caused pollution nor contributed to human rights abuses.

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8 March 2006

Exxon Mobil says Aceh torture lawsuit sets dangerous precedent

Author: Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press

Exxon Mobil Corp. warned that a U.S. judge's decision to allow villagers to file a lawsuit against the oil giant for alleged abuses by Indonesian troops in Aceh province could set a precedent for all American companies operating abroad... The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit in 2001 on behalf of 11 Acehnese villagers who said Exxon Mobil's Indonesian subsidiary allowed its facilities to be used by soldiers to torture locals and to commit other human rights abuses...U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer ruled last week the case could proceed. [also refers to Pertamina, Freeport-McMoRan, Newmont]

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1 March 2006

[PDF] Corporate Action Network Magazine

Author: Amnesty International USA

[articles include:]
- Marking the anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster [re Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical)]
- Commemorating the lives and activism of the Ogoni-9
- Strategies to hold companies accountable - voluntary initiatives are only the first step
- Voluntary Principles – some companies make progress while others lose ground [Chevron, ExxonMobil]
- Protecting the law that protects the victims of corporate abuses [US Alien Tort Claims Act]
- Oil on Water: Human Rights and the Pursuit of Profit in Nigeria [re: Chevron]
- Help companies change – Build support for new human rights resolutions at Chevron and Dow
[also refers to ExxonMobil, Unocal (part of Chevron), Wal-Mart, Texaco (part of Chevron), Leggett & Platt, Home Depot, Wells Fargo]

🚫Read the full post here

8 December 2005

[DOC] Remarks by John G. Ruggie - Business & Human Rights Seminar - Old Billingsgate, London, December 8, 2005

Author: Professor John Ruggie, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights

[includes sections on "Complicity" and "Sphere of Influence"] By far the most serious instances of corporate involvement with human rights abuses take place in countries euphemistically described as “weak governance zones.” Some members of the business community have maintained that compliance with host country laws disposes of their strictly legal obligations in relation to human rights. But as a matter of logic, host country jurisdiction cannot suffice where it does not exist...[T]o date too many governments have responded to the tumultuous evolution of business and human rights over the past decade as though they were spectators if not mere bystanders...The fear expressed by some observers that human rights are becoming “privatized” has one main cause: governance gaps and governance failures...[I]n my view, the strategy of imposing direct obligations on companies under international law for the broad spectrum of human rights does not recommend itself at this time, if our aim is to achieve practical results.

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21 October 2005

Villagers' suit will be in a state court [USA]

Author: Houston Chronicle

A federal judge said Indonesian villagers can sue Exxon Mobil Corp. over allegations the Irving-based company contributed to human-rights abuses by government security forces. Judge Louis Oberdorfer in Washington ruled the suit by 11 villagers can proceed on state law claims against Exxon Mobil. He dismissed the villagers' claims under the federal Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act...The plaintiffs now must decide which state has the most applicable tort laws for the purposes of the suit, he said.

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Author: John Ruggie, Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général des Nations unies pour les entreprises & les droits de l'homme

A l’heure actuelle, je n’ai pas de plan de route précis ni même de destination pour exécuter ce mandat. Mais, pour lancer la conversation, il m’a semblé utile de vous faire part de certaines idées générales sur ces questions, que j’ai tirées de mes autres activités en qualité d’universitaire et d’ancien des Nations Unies, et qui m’accompagneront inévitablement au cours de ce voyage... [Il] semblerait logique de commencer à aborder les situations dans lesquelles le système actuel du droit international des droits de l’homme est complètement en panne ou apparaît dans l’incapacité de fonctionner comme prévu. Je pense aux « Etats faillis », par exemple, ou aux entreprises qui aident ou encouragent les violations des droits de l’homme par les gouvernements, par leur propre personnel ou par des alliés étrangers, ou qui en bénéficient.

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