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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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All components of this story

Article
2 December 2003

[PDF] Background: The Yadana Pipeline and Activist Lawsuits

Author: Unocal

In 1996, activist groups who oppose Unocal's investment in the Yadana project filed two separate lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Unocal, Total S.A., the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and others...Both suits alleged acts of mistreatment of workers and forced labor by the government of Myanmar in connection with the construction of the Yadana natural gas pipeline project. [also refers to PTT]

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Article
1 December 2003

[PDF] Summaries of Presentations Made at the UNRISD Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and Development: Towards a New Agenda? 17 November 2003 - 18 November 2003 Salle XVI, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Author: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)

...we want to take stock of recent proposals to do with corporate accountability and to consider their feasibility both in political terms and as instruments for addressing the types of development concerns that surround the CSR agenda. [refers to British American Tobacco, Philip Morris (part of Altria), Shell, Unocal, Sasol, Cruz Azul, Peñoles, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, Holcim Apasco, Nike, Figaro Coffee, Nestlé, McDonald's]

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Article
24 November 2003

Slave Labor? Unocal is being sued in the U.S. for ignoring abuses in Burma. It's the next globalization battle

Author: Adam Zagorin, Time

...But TIME has obtained unsealed court documents that challenge the company's assertion. A Unocal consultant warned the firm in 1992 that "throughout Burma, the government habitually makes use of forced labor..." [also refers to Total, Fresh Del Monte Produce, ExxonMobil]

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Article
31 October 2003

[PDF] Community redress and multinational enterprises

Author: Alice Palmer, Foundation for International Law and Development (FIELD)

This paper...serves as a basic primer on some of the legal concepts and procedures relevant to communities seeking redress from multinationals. It looks at what makes multinationals different from other businesses and examines the obstacles to redress at the national level. Secondly it considers options for developing international approaches to community redress. [refers to Cape plc, Cambior, Thor, Unocal, Freeport-McMoRan, Shell, Union Carbide, BHP Billiton, RTZ (now Rio Tinto), Chevron, Texaco (now ChevronTexaco)]

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Article
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Author: AFP

Un an après l'ouverture d'une enquête sur des accusations de travail forcé en Birmanie lors de la construction d'un gazoduc au cours des années 1990, un ancien directeur [Hervé Madéo] de la filiale birmane du groupe Total a été entendu jeudi par un juge de Nanterre...

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Article
4 September 2003

Business targeted for rights abuse

Author: Seth Stern, Christian Science Monitor

Case against Unocal tests whether big global firms can be sued for aiding regimes, such as Burma, labeled as human-rights violators.

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Article
3 September 2003

California, New York financial chiefs pressure Unocal to pull operations from Myanmar

Author: Paul Chavez, Associated Press

Chief financial officers from New York state and California urged oil giant Unocal Corp. to pull its operations from Myanmar or assure shareholders that the company complies with human rights protections.

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Article
26 August 2003

Audio of the opening Arguments and Rebuttals in the Doe vs Unocal case

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Article
26 August 2003

Doe v. Unocal: Case Outline

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Article
19 August 2003

Multinationals and accountability

Author: Alan Boyd, Asia Times

[refers to recently-adopted U.N. norms on business & human rights; U.N. Global Compact; lawsuits in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Claims Act]

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