Occidental lawsuit (re Colombia)

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

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
31 May 2010

[PDF] Think globally, sue locally: Out-of-court tactics employed by plaintiffs, their lawyers, and their advocates in transnational tort cases

Author: Jonathan Drimmer, Steptoe & Johnson, released by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform

Over the past 15 years, there has been a sharp rise in lawsuits brought against United States companies, as well as foreign companies with a substantial U.S. presence, that are premised on alleged personal or environmental injuries that occur overseas...With increasing frequency, plaintiffs, their attorneys, and their advocates are employing aggressive out-of court tactics that approach, straddle, and sometimes cross ethical lines in seeking to gain litigation advantages....The tactics...have clearly demonstrable patterns. Among them are: Aggressive media tactics...Community organizing tactics...Investment tactics...Political tactics...Fraudulent misconduct...[refers to AirScan, Archer Daniels Midland, Bridgestone, Bridgestone-Firestone (part of Bridgestone), Brylane (part of Pinault Printemps-Redoute), Cargill, Chevron, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Del Monte Foods, Dole, Dow Chemical, Drummond, ExxonMobil, Gap, Gulf Oil, Levi Strauss, Mercedes-Benz (part of Daimler), Mobil Oil (part of ExxonMobil), Nestlé, Occidental Petroleum, Petroecuador, Pfizer, PPR (formerly Pinault-Printemps-Redoute), Rio Tinto, Shell, Target, Texaco (part of Chevron), Union Carbide (part of Dow), Unocal (part of Chevron), Wal-Mart, Yahoo!]

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Article
31 May 2010

[PDF] Launch of online portal on “Business, Conflict & Peace”

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today at the United Nations in Geneva, the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is launching the first global information hub on “Business, Conflict & Peace”...Chris Avery, Director of the Resource Centre, said: “We are giving this subject priority because it is in conflict zones where abuses are most severe, where the risk of complicity is greatest, and where victims are the most vulnerable. We created this portal to bring together in one place all the best information about how companies are impacting human rights (positively or negatively) in conflict and post-conflict zones – and to provide guidance on how to avoid abuses”...The portal explains key initiatives in this field.

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Article
19 April 2010

[PDF] Universal Periodic Review – United States of America Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Author: EarthRights International

EarthRights International (ERI) makes this submission for the Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America, focusing on the United States’ participation in U.S. civil lawsuits raising international human rights claims over the past four years. Founded in 1995, ERI is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to the protection of human rights and the environment...Our legal program focuses primarily on cases against corporations who are responsible for human rights abuses, frequently litigated in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS)…ERI has served as counsel in five ATS lawsuits against multinational corporations, and has submitted amicus curiae briefs in at least a dozen similar cases.

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Article
28 September 2009

[PDF] Special event: Martyn Day & Paul Hoffman speaking on “Human rights lawsuits against companies – our experiences with victims, their families and businesspeople” (London, 3 Dec 2009)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is pleased to invite you to an event featuring leading human rights lawyers: Martyn Day (UK) & Paul Hoffman (US). Both have brought landmark lawsuits against companies. They will be speaking on the same stage for the first time, and fielding questions from the audience. Martyn and Paul will share: - highlights of past cases; - inside view of current cases; - comments on what more should be done to hold companies accountable under law; and - what they would say to companies wishing to avoid such lawsuits. [refers to lawsuits against Trafigura, Cape plc, Gencor, BP, Anglo American, Thor Chemicals, Gallaher, Imperial Tobacco, Shell, Unocal, Bridgestone-Firestone, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Talisman, Wal-Mart]

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Article
28 October 2008

[PDF] Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches world’s first online portal profiling human rights lawsuits against companies

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches a free online portal – the first to bring together and demystify lawsuits from across the world alleging human rights abuses by companies. The portal summarises in non-legal language over 35 cases and the positions of each side, with more cases to be added soon. It also presents special commentaries by experts...Companies in profiled lawsuits include: AngloGold Ashanti, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Biwater, Blackwater, BP, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron/Texaco, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Dow/Union Carbide, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, Firestone, Ford, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Mitsubishi, Nike, Occidental, Rio Tinto, Severstal, Shell, Standard Chartered, Talisman, Trafigura, Total, UBS, Wal-Mart, Yahoo!

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Article
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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Article
1 October 2006

Global Lawyer: The Death of Alien Tort

Author: Michael Goldhaber, Corporate Counsel [USA]

...[In] a case pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals..., multinationals are in the dock for propping up apartheid. But if the defendants prevail, South Africa could be Waterloo for the notion that companies can be accountable for human rights abuses outside the United States...[The] most consequential alien tort question — whether a company can be liable for aiding and abetting human rights abuses — is still unresolved... The South African Apartheid Litigation seeks a sweeping $400 billion... In late 2004 Judge John Sprizzo...categorically rejected claims based on a corporation aiding and abetting human rights abuses, because "aiding and abetting" is not universally prohibited conduct...The judge gave special weight to the views expressed by the South African and U.S. governments. South Africa wrote in its amicus brief that, as a society, it has rejected reparations...[S]ooner or later the question of aiding and abetting will reach the Supreme Court...[W]ith the current composition of the Supreme Court, any test claim may be doomed. [also refers to Ford; IBM; lawsuits against Unocal (now part of Chevron), Occidental]

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Article
31 August 2006

Why all companies should address human rights (and how the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre can help)

Author: Christopher Avery, Annabel Short, Gregory Tzeutschler Regaignon - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[this chapter appears in the the ICCA Handbook on CSR and Corporate Culture; a list of chapters in the handbook and ordering details can be found at http://www.cca-institute.org/handbook.html] The following sections set out why human rights are relevant to all companies, and why it is important that all companies take human rights seriously. i. International standards require companies to address human rights... ii. Only human rights provide companies with a framework of globally recognised principles... iii. There are increasing expectations for companies to manage human rights issues... iv. There are significant risks for companies that don’t respect human rights... v. Companies benefit from taking a proactive stance on human rights... vi. Human rights are universal standards that go beyond national laws... [refers to ABB, adidas-Salomon, Anglo American, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Body Shop, BP, BT, Cape PLC, Carrefour, Chiquita, Chevron/Texaco, Coca-Cola, Co-operative Financial Services, ExxonMobil, Ford, Gap, Hewlett-Packard, ING, McDonald’s, MTV Networks Europe, National Grid, Nike, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Occidental, Premier Oil, Rio Tinto, Shell, Statoil, Taco Bell (part of YUM!), Talisman Energy, Union Carbide/Dow, Unocal, Wal-Mart]

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Article
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Author: Diego E. López Medina, Profesor de las universidades de los Andes y Nacional, en Semana [Colombia]

El Pacto Mundial es una iniciativa inicialmente loable que permite un acercamiento distinto entre las empresas multinacionales y los derechos humanos y que permite continuar el debate sobre la responsabilidad social corporativa. Su implementación en Colombia sería benéfica ya que el sector privado nacional ha estado más comprometido con una responsabilidad social basada en la caridad religiosa que en un reconocimiento político de los derechos de sus conciudadanos. [se refiere a Unocal, ChevronTexaco, Degussa, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola, Occidental]

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Article
20 November 2004

Human rights: Can multinationals be held accountable?

Author: Ron Chepesiuk, National Defense College, Bangladesh, in Daily Star [Bangladesh]

...little effort has been made to make the multinationals accountable for what they do in interest of profit. But times are changing, thanks to a coalition consisting of plaintiffs from the developing world and aggressive human rights groups...[that] are taking multinationals from all over the world to court on the issue of human rights. [refers to Unocal, IBM, Shell, Coca Cola, Panamco (part of Coca-Cola FEMSA), CACI, Titan, ExxonMobil, Drummond, Occidental Petroleum, Del Monte (Fresh Del Monte Produce), DaimlerChrysler, BAT, Rothmans of Pall Mall]

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