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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]

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
12 January 2004

Corporate Accountability

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights

Too often, corporations do business with regimes that abuse human rights...Through cases such as Doe v. Unocal and Wiwa v. Royal Dutch/Shell, we have won important preliminary victories in the courts that put companies on notice that trampling on basic rights will only hurt the bottom line.

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Article
1 January 2004

Out of Burma: Grassroots Activism Forces Multinationals to End Ties with the Burmese Dictatorship

Author: Jeff Shaw, Multinational Monitor

The brutality of the ruling military junta, the elegance of the Burmese democratic movement and the strategic savvy of an international solidarity movement have spurred a multinational corporate procession out of the country, and away from support for or association with the governing dictatorship. [refers to Unocal, Total, Citibank (part of Citigroup), JP Morgan (part of JP Morgan Chase), Arco (part of BP), Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Perry Ellis, Kenneth Cole, The Children's Place, Jones New York (part of Jones Apparel)]

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Article
1 January 2004

Social Corporate Responsibility and the Role of the Women's Movement

Author: Ana Elena Obando, Women's Human Rights net

[refers to Unocal, Shell, Halliburton, Coca-Cola, Gildan Activewear, Procter & Gamble, Drummond]

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Article
28 December 2003

Judgment day - Will an obscure law bring down the global economy?

Author: Daphne Eviatar, in Boston Globe

Since 1996, close to two dozen cases have been filed against major multinationals [in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Claims Act] - including Royal Dutch/Shell, which is accused of complicity in the execution of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa; Unocal, for abetting the murder, torture, and rape of Burmese villagers; and a slew of companies that allegedly conspired with the South African government during the apartheid years. There has yet to be a single judgment issued against a corporation. Still, the business lobby's bell is sounding, and the Bush administration is heeding its call.

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Article
21 December 2003

Corporate Voluntarism and Human Rights: The Adequacy and Effectiveness of Voluntary Self-Regulation Regimes

Author: Penelope Simons, School of Social Sciences and Law, Oxford Brookes University, UK, in Relations industrielles: Équité, efficience, éthique ? La régulation sociale de l'entreprise mondialisée

This article reviews and assesses the language, human rights content and compliance mechanisms of the voluntary policies and/or codes developed by a number of corporations, industry groups, intergovernmental organizations and multistakeholder initiatives, as well as associated corporate practices. The analysis shows that these voluntary regimes are flawed and inadequate, and therefore unable to ensure that TNCs are not complicit in human rights violations in their extra-territorial activities... This paper will review and assess the voluntary self-regulatory instruments and practices of Talisman Energy, Premier Oil, BP and Shell. [also refers to Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, Unocal, Ivanhoe Mines, First Quantum Mining, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Ernst & Young]

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Author: AFP/El Tiempo [Colombia]

Quince pobladores birmanos demandaron al gigante petrolero [Unocal]...alegando que fue cómplice de las violaciones de derechos humanos cometidas en ese país [Birmania]...por el régimen militar birmano, que no dudó en recurrir al trabajo forzado, a las violaciones y a la tortura para construir el gasoducto de Yadana. [se refiere también a Total]

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Article
9 December 2003

Human rights for all people for all times

Author: Amnesty International Secretary General, Irene Khan [adapted from speech at Novartis conference]

Amnesty International has been working on the issue of human rights and business for over 10 years...We work in a variety of ways, some more controversial than others, ranging from mass mobilisation to tabling shareholder resolutions and participating in voluntary schemes like the Global Reporting Initiative and the UN Global Compact to dialogue and training of corporate actors. [refers to BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Cape plc, Unocal]

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Article
9 December 2003

Human rights trial over Unocal project in Myanmar opens in L.A.

Author: Paul Chavez, Associated Press

Oil giant Unocal Corp. should not be allowed to shift blame for alleged human rights abuses by the Myanmar military during a 1990s pipeline project to its subsidiaries, lawyers said Tuesday in opening statements. [also refers to Walt Disney, Total]

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