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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]

- 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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2 December 2004

Judge throws out claim against groups that invested in apartheid South Africa [USA]

Author: Edward Alden, Financial Times

A US district court has dismissed claims filed against nearly three dozen multinational corporations seeking billions of dollars in damages over allegations that their investments in South Africa had helped prop up the brutal apartheid regime. The decision, released on Monday by the US court in the southern district of New York, is being hailed as a significant victory by companies that had feared the case might open the door to huge lawsuits against any company that had done business with oppressive governments...Terry Collingsworth of the International Labor Rights Fund, the lead lawyer in [a case against] Unocal [brought under the same law], said Monday's decision might help his case by reassuring business groups that the ATCA [Alien Tort Claims Act] has not opened the door to a flood of lawsuits. [Defendants include IBM, General Motors; also refers to Talisman, Unocal]

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30 November 2004

[PDF] executive summary: "Business and International Crimes: Assessing the Liability of Business Entities for Grave Violations of International Law"

Author: Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science & Intl. Peace Academy

It is possible to hold business entities accountable for international crimes...but the problem of jurisdiction remains a barrier to international prosecution...Domestic courts are possible venues for assessing liability of companies operating abroad...especially through the doctrine of complicity. [refers to Talisman, Rio Tinto, Unocal, Shell, Chevron (part of ChevronTexaco), ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoRan, Cape plc]

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30 November 2004

[PDF] The Changing Landscape of Liability - A Director’s Guide to Trends in Corporate Environmental, Social and Economic Liability

Author: SustainAbility

[refers to Phillip Morris (part of Altria), McDonald's, Nestlé, Nike, Unocal, Ford, Shell, Monsanto, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical), Talisman, Walt Disney, Swiss Re, General Motors, General Electric, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Chevron (part of ChevronTexaco), Gap, Southern Peru Copper (joint venture Grupo México, Cerro Trading, Phelps Dodge), Coca-Cola, Rio Tinto, Freeport McMoRan, Del Monte (Fresh Del Monte Produce), Dyncorp (part of Computer Sciences), Barclays, Cape plc, Mitsubishi, Total, Burger King, KFC (part of YUM!), Kraft Foods (part of Altria), PepsiCo]

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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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Author: Laurent Fargues, Novethic

Après avoir ouvert une information judiciaire, en octobre 2002, à la suite des plaintes déposées par deux Birmans accusant la compagnie pétrolière [Total] de «séquestration», le parquet de Nanterre a décidé, en mai 2004, de requérir un non-lieu. La juge d’instruction en charge du dossier s’est opposée à cette décision. Une chambre d’instruction devrait prochainement trancher ce différend. [fait aussi référence à Unocal, Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), PTT]

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30 October 2004

[DOC] In Search for Direct Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights Violations in Africa: Which Way Forward?

Author: Tsafack Jean. B. Fokwa, LL. M. candidate, Univ. of Pretoria Faculty of Law

...this study focuses on the responsibility concept for corporate human rights violations and the objective of this study is to explore, examine and assess various avenues for asserting responsibility for corporate human rights violations. [refers to Shell, Acres International, Unocal]

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24 October 2004

Submission by ICCR's [Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility] Human Rights Working Group to the UN High Commission on Human Rights [for UN consultation on business & human rights]

Author: David M. Schilling, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Doris Gormley, Jesuit Conference; John Wilson, Christian Brothers Investment Services; Bob Walker, Ethical Funds

The UN Norms are a welcome addition to voluntary corporate codes of conduct. While these codes are important in focusing on factory conditions for workers, many are not built firmly on the internationally recognized human rights standards that make up the UN Norms. Some standards are shaped more by the culture of a company than by human rights conventions. The Norms provide a common template for all companies, establishing the expectations for minimum standards for human rights performance, which can create a level playing field for all companies. [refers to Shell, Unocal, Talisman, Alcoa, Ford, Gap, Walt Disney, McDonald's, Occidental Petroleum, Reebok]

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1 October 2004

Gas Pipelines and Green Politics in South and Southeast Asia

Author: Simpson, A. in Social Alternatives, Vol 23(4)

This article explores the social and environmental impacts of gas pipelines in the developing, or majority, world. It examines three cross-border pipeline projects at various stages of development [Yadana, Thai-Malaysian, Shwe pipelines] that stretch from India, through Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand, to Malaysia. [refers to Total, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), Unocal, PTT, Petronas]

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1 October 2004

[PDF] Oil and Human Rights

Author: Sir Geoffrey Chandler, Founder-Chair, Amnesty International UK Business Group 1991-2001 and a former Director of Shell International, in Oil, Gas & Energy Law Intelligence (OGEL)

The growth of oil wealth in many developing countries has fuelled the ability of governments to invest in armaments, to engage in the construction of buildings for prestige rather than utility, and to transform small-scale corruption into personal or political gain on a scale hitherto undreamt of at the cost of social equity and political stability...Protection of human rights now lies at the core of security of supply. [refers to Shell, BP, Statoil, Norsk Hydro, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Talisman, Unocal]

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1 October 2004

[PDF] Oil, Gas & Energy Law Intelligence [OGEL] - Special Feature on Corporate Social Responsibility

Author: Christine Batruch (Lundin Petroleum) & Ayesha Dias (UNDP), eds., in Oil, Gas & Energy Law Intelligence [OGEL]

[special issue of OGEL with articles on human rights, environmental and development impacts of oil & gas sector, including discussion of numerous codes and principles] [refers to Shell, BP, Statoil, Norsk Hydro, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Talisman, Unocal]

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