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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13 October 2006

Oil Companies Revamp Ethical Plans as Legal Risk Grows

Author: Benoit Faucon, Dow Jones

[A lawsuit against ExxonMobil relating to alleged abuses by the Indonesian military in Aceh] exemplifies how oil companies now face a rising risk to their reputations from the use of extra-territorial legislation. [They] increasingly invest in more risky and unstable parts of the world, leaving them open to charges of collusion with questionable regimes or practices... And that means the companies are implementing new, more stringent corporate policies, while at the same time trying to avoid a public airing of uncomfortable allegations in the courts. [also refers to lawsuits against Total (regarding Burma), Shell (regarding Nigeria), Talisman (regarding Sudan), BP, Unocal (now part of Chevron, regarding Burma)]

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17 January 2007

Exxon faces lawsuit on killings in Indonesia [USA]

Author: Bloomberg News, The Associated Press

Exxon Mobil…must face a lawsuit that claims Indonesian soldiers guarding a natural gas processing plant in Aceh province tortured and killed local residents, the U.S. Court of Appeals…ruled…The court upheld a lower court's denial of Exxon Mobil's request to throw out the case…The suit, filed in 2001 by 11 Indonesians, claims the soldiers were under Exxon Mobil's direction and control, making the company liable.

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27 July 2007

Alabama Company Is Exonerated in Murders at Colombian Mine

Author: Kyle Whitmire, New York Times

A federal jury found on Thursday that Drummond, an Alabama-based coal company, was not liable for the deaths of three union leaders at its mine near La Loma, Colombia, in 2001. The case...was the first of its kind to go to trial under the Alien Tort Statute... At trial...the plaintiffs could not prove clear connections between the company and the paramilitary groups... Similar lawsuits are pending against...Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum and Chiquita Brands... The Drummond victory...will not likely deter similar lawsuits, [Peter J. Spiro, a law professor at Temple University] said, because the jury verdict does not test the underlying legal theory of the Alien Tort Statute. Those issues of the law’s application must be determined on the appellate level.

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17 August 2007

To Avoid Risk of Alien Tort Claims Act Cases, Companies Must Improve Human Rights

Author: Bill Baue, SocialFunds

The first-ever corporate ATCA verdict of not guilty does not diminish the ongoing liabilities companies face in US courts for human rights violations committed overseas. Late last month, a federal jury delivered the verdict in the first corporate Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) case to make it through trial, finding Drummond coal company not complicit in the 2001 murder of three union leaders at one of its mines in Colombia. Drummond’s reprieve may be temporary, however, as the plaintiffs filed appeals protesting the judge’s exclusion or limitation of eye-witness testimony...[also refers to Chevron, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Firestone (part of Bridgestone), Shell, Wal-Mart]

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Author: AFP

La Cour suprême américaine a validé aujourd'hui une plainte pour atteintes aux droits de l'Homme contre...ExxonMobil après des exactions commises par les services de sécurité d'une exploitation de gaz naturel en Indonésie... En juin 2001, onze villageois indonésiens de la province d'Aceh ont déposé plainte contre Exxon devant un tribunal américain, dénonçant des dommages pour les crimes commis pour assurer la sécurité d'un gisement exploité par le géant américain...

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Author: AFP

La Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos aceptó el lunes una demanda por violación de los derechos humanos presentada contra...ExxonMobil, tras actuaciones de los servicios de seguridad de esta compañía en una explotación de gas natural en Indonesia. La mayor instancia judicial del país se negó a aceptar el recurso de apelación de Exxon, validando indirectamente la demanda, que abre la vía a un eventual proceso.

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16 June 2008

[US] Court rejects Exxon appeal in human rights case

Author: Christopher S Rugaber, Associated Press

Exxon Mobil Corp. has failed to convince the Supreme Court to halt a human rights lawsuit against it. The justices, without comment, on Monday rejected the energy company's appeal of a ruling on a 2001 lawsuit filed by International Rights Advocates on behalf of 11 villagers in Indonesia's Aceh province.

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11 August 2008

[PDF] John Doe, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum Opinion

Author: Judge Louis Oberdorfer, US District Court for the District of Colombia

[Opinion unsealing court's order of 18 July 2008 denying defendant's motion to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction.]

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12 August 2008

Exxon Loses Bid to Shield Information From Federal Court Records

Author: Mike Scarcella, Blog of Legal Times [USA]

As part of a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil that alleges human rights violations, a federal judge is exposing information the oil giant wanted to keep secret. Eleven villagers from Aceh, Indonesia, are suing Exxon in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming soldiers who were guarding Exxon facilities tortured and killed villagers in 2000... Attorneys for Exxon...urged a U.S. District Court judge to keep under seal Exxon correspondence...that generally addresses rising violence in Indonesia... The 18-page opinion, written by U.S. District Court Judge Louis Oberdorfer, was filed last month and unsealed, in its entirety, Monday. It says the case against Exxon can be heard in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Oberdorfer’s opinion includes snippets of email correspondence between Exxon executives who discuss the "complete breakdown of law and order" in Indonesia.

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19 August 2008

Human Rights Violations Suit Against Exxon Will Be Heard

Author: Mike Scarcella, Legal Times [USA]

A federal judge last month ruled that a suit alleging human-rights violations against Exxon can be heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. But until last week, that ruling had been under seal. The decision is a victory for the plaintiffs in a rare case that seeks to hold a U.S. company responsible for action rooted abroad. Eleven villagers from Aceh, Indonesia, say Exxon should be held liable for alleged violent crimes by Indonesian guards assigned to protect an Exxon facility. Judge Louis Oberdorfer ruled the court is the proper jurisdiction for the complaint…. Oberdorfer has yet to rule on a motion for summary judgment or set a trial date.

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