Unocal lawsuit (re Myanmar)

Pipeline, By: SeanMack, Creative CommonsA group of Myanmar residents filed a lawsuit against Unocal in US federal court in 1996.  The plaintiffs alleged they had suffered human rights abuses such as forced labour, murder, rape and torture at the hands of the Myanmar military during construction of a gas pipeline, and that Unocal was complicit in these abuses.  Unocal and Myanmar’s military government were in a consortium for the pipeline’s construction.  The parties reached an out-of-court settlement in which Unocal agreed to compensate the plaintiffs and provide funds for programmes in Myanmar to improve living conditions and protect the rights of people from the pipeline region (the exact terms of the settlement are confidential).  This settlement was accepted by the court, and the case was closed on 13 April 2005.

Background materials
- “Tentative Settlement of ATCA Human Rights Suits Against Unocal”, Red Orbit, 24 Jul 2005
- “Tale of Rape and Murder on Burmese Pipeline Haunts US”, Andrew Gumbel, Independent [UK], 11 Dec 2003 [overview of case as of Dec 2003]
- Unocal: [PDF] “Background: The Yadana Pipeline and Activist Lawsuits”, 2 Dec 2003
- Unocal: “The story you haven’t heard about . . . The Yadana Project in Myanmar” [general information regarding Unocal’s activities in Burma]
- Center for Constitutional Rights (NGO representing plaintiffs): “Synopsis” [of Doe v. Unocal lawsuit]
- Earthrights International (NGO representing plaintiffs): “Doe v. Unocal” [background materials]

Settlement
- Analysis:  [PDF] "The Unocal Settlement: Implications for the Developing Law on Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Abuses", Rachel Chambers, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University [Australia], in Human Rights Brief, Washington College of Law, American University Fall 2005 
- Analysis: “Unocal Announces It will Settle a Human Rights Suit: What is the Real Story Behind Its Decision?”, Anthony J. Sebok, Brooklyn Law School, in FindLaw’s Writ, 10 Jan 2005 
- Unocal: “The story you haven’t heard about . . . The Activists’ Lawsuits”, 4 Apr 2005 
- Center for Constitutional Rights: “Historic Advance for Universal Human Rights: Unocal to Compensate Burmese Villagers
- Earthrights International: "Court Denies Unocal's Efforts to Shift Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses [in Burma] to its Insurers", Lillian Manzella, 14 Jun 2006
- Earthrights International: Common Questions and Answers, 2 Apr 2005


Certain legal briefs filed in this case [from website of attorneys for plaintiffs, Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris and Hoffman LLP]

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Article
11 January 2005

Top Five Socially Responsible Investing News Stories of 2004

Author: William Baue, SocialFunds.com

Now in its sixth year, SocialFunds.com continues its tradition of ringing in the New Year by reviewing the top SRI [Socially Responsible Investing] stories of the past year. [refers to Bank of Montreal, Cintas, Tyco, Coca-Cola, Cinergy, American Electric Power, Southern Company, Reliant, Ford, JPMorgan Chase, Occidental, Avon, Dover, Masco, Fifth Third Bancorp, Raytheon, Intel, IBM, Gillette, Sears, Unocal]

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Article
10 January 2005

Unocal Announces It Will Settle A Human Rights Suit: What Is the Real Story Behind Its Decision?

Author: Anthony J. Sebok, Brooklyn Law School, in FindLaw's Writ [USA]

Last month, Unocal announced that it had agreed, in principle, to settle a long-standing suit...The settlement was reported in media accounts as a defeat for Unocal, and a victory for those who want to use American courts to force American corporations to behave better overseas. The real story behind the settlement may be more complicated, however... [also refers to Total, Citigroup]

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Article
1 January 2005

Supping with a long spoon - How much do human rights count for, when there’s business to be done?

Author: Roger East & Oliver Balch, interviewing Chris Marsden (Amnesty UK Business Group) & Andrew Hope (Intl. Chamber of Commerce), in Green Futures [UK]

The real live debate is twofold. Is there sufficient reason – and pressure – for companies to [bear responsibility for their human rights impacts] voluntarily? And in what circumstances are they just kidding themselves (or the public) that constructive engagement can work, when there’s really only one ethical answer to the question ‘should I stay or should I go?’ [refers to Shell, BP, Premier Oil, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Levi Strauss, BAT (British American Tobacco)]

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Article
18 December 2004

Paying For It - Doing business with regimes may cost American companies cash as well as goodwill

Author: Robert Horn, Time

Doing business in Burma has often cost American companies p.r. points: Pepsi, Apple Computer and Levi Strauss are just a few of the U.S. firms that pulled out of the military-ruled state after being pressured by human-rights groups. Now, however, doing business with regimes like the one in Rangoon may cost American companies cash as well as goodwill. Last week...Unocal chose to settle a landmark lawsuit...[also refers to Total]

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Article
15 December 2004

Foreign crimes come home to the US

Author: Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service

Lawsuits based on a 200-year-old US law appear to have persuaded oil company Unocal to compensate alleged victims of human-rights abuses committed by Myanmar soldiers during the building of an oil pipeline. [also refers to Total, Myanmar state oil company (Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise [MOGE]), ExxonMobil, Shell]

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Article
13 December 2004

Settlement in works over human rights case involving Unocal

Author: Paul Chavez, Associated Press

Unocal reached an agreement in principle to settle the federal and state suits but discussions were ongoing and no details were immediately released, company spokesman Barry Lane said...The suits maintain that El Segundo-based Unocal should be held liable for the alleged enslavement of villagers by soldiers during construction of a natural gas pipeline in the 1990s in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

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Article
13 December 2004

Settlement reached in human rights lawsuit [Burma/USA]

Author: Unocal & plaintiffs in lawsuit

The parties to several lawsuits related to Unocal’s energy investment in the Yadana gas pipeline project in Myanmar/Burma announced today that they have reached a settlement...[which] will compensate plaintiffs and provide funds enabling plaintiffs and their representatives to develop programs to improve living conditions, health care and education and protect the rights of people from the pipeline region.

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Article
13 December 2004

Unocal settles Burma human rights cases

Author: Edward Alden & Doug Cameron, Financial Times

Unocal said on Monday it had reached an out-of-court settlement in landmark [US] lawsuits alleging that the energy company was complicit in human rights abuses committed during the construction of a gas pipeline in Burma...The agreement in principle is the most significant reached under the Alien Tort Claims Act...Unocal has firmly contested the claims linking it to human rights abuses, but the judge in the California state case had agreed to hear charges that Unocal knowingly aided and benefited from the crimes committed by Burmese soldiers. [also refers to Total, PTT, Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE)]

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Article
13 December 2004

Unocal strikes deal with Myanmar villagers over alleged use of slave labour

Author: Agence France Presse

US oil giant Unocal Corp. has agreed in principle to settle a lawsuit brought by Myanmar villagers who claim it condoned the use of slave labour during the building of a gas pipeline, Unocal said. [also refers to Total, PTT]

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Article
13 December 2004

Unocal to Settle Lawsuits Over Myanmar Abuse

Author: Deepa Babington, Reuters

Unocal Corp. has agreed to settle two closely watched [US] lawsuits accusing the U.S. oil giant of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses that occurred during the construction of a pipeline in Myanmar, it said on Monday. [also refers to Total, PTT, Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE)]

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