Occidental lawsuit (re Colombia)

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On 23 April 2003, residents of Santo Domingo, Colombia filed a lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) and its security contractor, Airscan, Inc. in US federal court in California.  The plaintiffs claim that both Oxy and Airscan, in a bid to secure Oxy’s pipeline in Caño Limón, Colombia, helped the Colombian Air Force (CAF) conduct an aerial bombing attack on Santo Domingo on 13 December 1998.  The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act and various California state laws, and alleged that Occidental was complicit in extrajudicial killing, torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The lawsuit alleges that Oxy and Airscan provided key strategic information, as well as ground and air support to the CAF in the bombing raid.  The raid led to the deaths of 17 innocent civilians and injured 25 others.  In 2005, Oxy filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of forum non conveniens, international comity and the political question doctrine.  (More information on these three doctrines is available here.)  The court declined to grant the motion to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens or international comity.  However, the court granted the motion to dismiss based on the political question doctrine.  The plaintiffs subsequently appealed this decision.  US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments on the appeal on 19 April 2007.  It issued a decision on 11 May 2009 remanding the case to the district court to consider the impact of an intervening decision in the lawsuit Sarei v. Rio Tinto.  The district court was instructed to consider whether local remedies need to be exhausted before the case can be brought in US court.  The district court issued its decision in March 2010 stating that the plaintiffs would not need to exhaust local remedies prior to bringing the case in US court, but the court also reiterated that it had found that the plaintiffs' case was precluded by the politcal question doctrine.  In November 2014, the appeals court dismissed the case, finding that the case had insufficient ties to the United States to be heard in US court.  On 14 December 2015, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the victims' appeal to reinstate the lawsuit against Oxy.

In August 2011 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced that it would hear a case against Colombia regarding the bombing of Santo Domingo.  On 30 November 2012, the Court ruled in favour of the victims and found that Colombia had violated the right to life of those killed by the bombing, as well as the right to personal integrity of those injured.

- "U.S. Supreme Court rejects human rights suit against Occidental", Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 14 Dec 2015
- "US court refuses to hold Occidental liable in Colombia bombing", Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 12 Nov 2014
- "Human rights court to review 3 Colombian cases", Travis Mannon, Colombia Reports, 23 Aug 2011
- [PDF] "Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation: A Case Study of the Role of the Executive Branch in International Human Rights Litigation", Amy Apollo, Rutgers Law Journal, 2006
- "U.S. State Department Intervenes To Protect Occidental Against Lawsuit For Human Rights Crimes", Daniel Kovalik [plaintiffs’ co-counsel], ZNet, 13 Jan 2005
- "Occidental Sued in Human Rights Case", Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr 2003
- "A Colombian Village Caught in a Cross-Fire", T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, 17 Mar 2002

Occidental Petroleum:
- Occidental Issues Statement Regarding Santo Domingo, Colombia Lawsuit, 24 Apr 2003
International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs co-counsel]: 
- Occidental Petroleum - Case summary
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation - Complaint, 23 Apr 2003

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
- [PDF] Mujica v. AirScan & Occidental Petroleum Corporation, 12 Nov 2014
US District Court for the Central District of California:
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation - Ruling on limited remand as to the prudential exhaustion issue, 8 Mar 2010
- Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Opinion, 28 Jun 2005 [order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the action under the doctrines offorum non conveniens and international comity]
US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation, AirScan, Inc. - Order, 11 May 2009

US Department of State:
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. – Brief of United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of Affirmance, 17 Mar 2006
- [PDF] Statement of Intent, 23 Dec 2004

Earthrights International:
- Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Amicus Curiae in support of plaintiffs-appelants' petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc, 20 Jan 2015
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Brief of Amicus Curiae Earthrights International in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants and Reversal, 3 Jan 2006 [brief filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the appellants-plaintiffs and reversal]
- Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp.

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Article
24 April 2003

Lawsuit Filed Against Occidental Petroleum for Involvement in Infamous Colombian Massacre

Author: International Labor Rights Fund

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Article
24 April 2003

Occidental Issues Statement Regarding Santo Domingo, Colombia Lawsuit

Author: Occidental Petroleum

While we have not had an opportunity to study the complaint, we believe that any suggestion that Occidental Petroleum was responsible in any way for the Santo Domingo tragedy resulting from military action involving Colombian armed forces and elements of the terrorist group known by its Spanish acronym, FARC, is completely false. Occidental has not and does not provide lethal aid to Colombia's armed forces.

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Article
24 April 2003

Occidental Petroleum and Florida firm sued over Colombia bombing

Author: AP

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Author: AFP, El Heraldo [Colombia]

Un ciudadano colombiano demandó ayer a la compañía petrolera Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) por su presunta implicación en el asesinato de civiles inocentes en el poblado colombiano de Santo Domingo en 1998, informaron sus abogados. La querella fue presentada por organizaciones de derechos internacionales ante la corte de distrito de Los Angeles

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Article
25 April 2003

Human Rights Groups Sue Petroleum Co. [Occidental]

Author: Associated Press, in Guardian [UK]

International human rights groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Occidental Petroleum and one of its security contractors over a 1998 bombing that killed 17 civilians in a Colombian village...The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court...The lawsuit names Los Angeles-based Occidental and Rockledge, Fla.-based Airscan Inc., an aviation security firm, as defendants and accuses the companies of helping [the Colombian military] conduct the raid.

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Article
25 April 2003

Occidental Sued in Human Rights Case

Author: Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times

The oil firm, accused of aiding a deadly military assault in Colombia, joins list of U.S. firms charged in overseas incidents. - The list of corporations sued in American courts for their alleged involvement in human rights violations in foreign countries grew longer Thursday, when Occidental Petroleum Corp. was accused of aiding a deadly military assault on a Colombian village.

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Article
2 June 2003

A Needed Human Rights Law [USA]

Author: editorial, New York Times

...the Alien Tort Claims Act - now the Justice Department wants to end the law's use in such suits [lawsuits alleging companies engaged in serious human rights abuses abroad]...To stop lawsuits under this act would be to put abusive individuals and companies above the law.

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Article
5 April 2004

Labor Rights Fund Hails Progress in Alien Tort Claims Act Suit Against Occidental Petroleum

Author: International Labor Rights Fund

A human rights case against Occidental Petroleum on behalf of Colombian villagers killed in an aerial bombing raid in 1998 overcame a major impediment last week thanks to a memo from the US State Department. The suit, Galvis Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum, filed by the Washington, DC-based International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) on April 23, 2003 in US District Court in Los Angeles under the Alien Tort Claims Act, cites Occidental Petroleum for its role in the bombing of the village of Santo Domingo that killed seventeen residents and wounded others. Last week, on March 30th, the State Department’s Acting Legal Adviser...indicated that he had no foreign policy objections to the lawsuit’s proceeding. [also refers to Airscan, Rio Tinto]

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Article
20 April 2004

Colombia - A Laboratory of War: Repression and Violence in Arauca

Author: Amnesty International

Occidental Petroleum, Ecopetrol and Repsol-YPF, which own and manage Arauca's Caño Limón oil field, have reportedly provided funding for the XVIII Brigade through the Cravo Norte Association's security agreements with the military...This support reinforces the responsibility these companies have to ensure that human rights violations are not committed by state agents or their proxies operating to defend their companies' economic and strategic interests in Arauca.

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