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Article

25 Apr 2022

Author:
Al Jazeera

US judge orders ExxonMobil to pay nearly $290,000 to plaintiff’s lawyer following botched deposition in lawsuit over company's alleged involvement in human rights abuses in Aceh, Indonesia

"ExxonMobil issued rare penalty in ongoing Indonesian rights case", 20 Apr 2022

Even by the standards of a justice system known for drama, a US court’s latest ruling in a case pitting Indonesian villagers against one of the world’s most powerful oil companies was unusual enough to raise eyebrows.

John Doe versus ExxonMobil, which has dragged through the courts in the District of Columbia for two decades, took a dramatic turn after a judge ruled last week that the oil giant pay $288,900.78 in legal fees and expenses to the plaintiff’s counsel following a disastrous deposition two years ago...

In 2020, Mark Snell, ExxonMobil’s Asia Pacific regional general counsel, “severely, repeatedly, and perversely obstructed his own deposition” and refused to answer questions, wasted time and provided inaccurate and evasive answers about whether he was reading from his notes and who prepared them, according to court documents.

The case was filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia in 2001 after allegations Indonesian villagers were subject to human rights abuses, including sexual assault, torture, rape and wrongful death in and around the ExxonMobil Oil and Gas Plant in Lhoksukon, Aceh Province during the late 1990s and early 2000s...

The 11 plaintiffs in the case, some of whom are represented by their families, allege that soldiers contracted by ExxonMobil conducted sweeping raids aimed at rooting out suspected separatists, torturing and murdering innocent members of the local populace in the process.

ExxonMobil has strenuously denied knowing about any abuses by contractors under its supervision...

“We were the victims and we have cooperated throughout the process. Exxon doesn’t want to take responsibility for what they did. We spoke to Exxon’s lawyers at our deposition and told them everything about what happened to us. How can they say now that they don’t remember anything?” [said a plaintiff]...

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