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 March 2006

Mapping out the way ahead for business and human rights

Author: Mallen Baker, Business Respect

John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations, has produced his interim report...Overall, Ruggie's report is pragmatic and committed to progress. NGOs for whom the Norms became an article of faith will be disappointed by the full stop this report effectively places behind this initiative. But they should be heartened by the practical commitment to finding ways forward that will actually work on the ground and improve the human rights performance of companies and states.

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Author: entretien avec Andrew Clapham, Professeur de droit international à l'Institut universitaire de hautes études internationales (Genève) par Stéphane Bussard, dans Le Temps [Suisse]

L'OCDE prévoit une instance auprès de laquelle un individu peut porter plainte en cas de violation des droits humains...Et d'ailleurs les entreprises commencent à comprendre qu'elles doivent y prêter attention. Et ce pour deux raisons principales. Même si la plainte proprement dite ne les effraie pas, des organisations comme OECD Watch publient les plaintes sur Internet et assurent un suivi. Cette pratique met les sociétés sous pression. De plus, aujourd'hui, les grands investisseurs tels que les fonds de pension demandent aux sociétés dans lesquelles ils pourraient investir quelle est leur politique en matière de droits de l'homme. [fait référence à Nike, Unocal (partie de Chevron)]

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8 March 2006

Understanding corporate complicity: Extending the notion beyond existing laws [speech by Irene Khan, Amnesty International, to Business & Human Rights Seminar, London, Dec 2005]

Author: Irene Khan, Secretary-General, Amnesty International

[W]hat happens when the company itself does not commit an abuse but benefits from an abuse committed by a government or armed group? Or funds those who commit abuses? Or remain silent in the face of abuse? Or complies with national laws and policies which are clearly in violation of international human rights?...[L]et me start by laying out some examples of real cases where companies can risk complicity [examples follow]...What can companies do to avoid complicity? What companies must do is to create and maintain a culture of non-complicity in every aspect of their operations. To do so, companies must move towards a culture of compliance with human rights and international standards. For guidance, they can turn to principles suggested by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights [list of the principles follows]

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Article
3 March 2006

[DOC] ExxonMobil’s Rights and Obligations in Relation to the Payment of Oil Revenues Demanded by the Government of Chad

Author: Columbia Law School [USA], Human Rights Clinic, ed. by Prof. Peter Rosenblum

ExxonMobil now finds itself in a critical position—it must decide whether to comply with Chad’s demand to deposit oil revenues into the designated bank, thereby undermining the central poverty reduction principles of the Revenue Management Program... ExxonMobil is not in a legal straightjacket with respect to Chad’s demand that oil royalties be paid into an unsupervised bank account, outside the supervision of the World Bank. Rather, ExxonMobil possesses several legal avenues which it may, and should, pursue, to ensure that Chad fulfills its obligations... [also refers to Chevron, Petronas, Unocal (part of Chevron), IWL Communications (CapRock Communications), Fluor Daniel (Fluor), Kellogg Brown & Root (part of Halliburton)]

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Article
1 March 2006

Ask Amnesty: SHARE POWER: Using Grassroots Shareholder Activism to Hold Corporations Accountable for Human Rights

Author: Amnesty International USA

All companies have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations, but all too often they are contributing to human rights abuses – either directly or indirectly. You can hold corporations accountable - morally and legally - for violations within and connected to their operations... Join Simon Billenness and Larry Dohrs, two longtime Amnesty volunteers and experts in shareholder activism, on Wednesday, March 1st to discuss SHARE POWER and learn how you can get involved in this campaign. [refers to Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide (part of Dow), Chevron, Unocal (part of Chevron), Taser, ExxonMobil, Sherwin Williams]

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1 March 2006

[PDF] Corporate Action Network Magazine

Author: Amnesty International USA

[articles include:]
- Marking the anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster [re Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical)]
- Commemorating the lives and activism of the Ogoni-9
- Strategies to hold companies accountable - voluntary initiatives are only the first step
- Voluntary Principles – some companies make progress while others lose ground [Chevron, ExxonMobil]
- Protecting the law that protects the victims of corporate abuses [US Alien Tort Claims Act]
- Oil on Water: Human Rights and the Pursuit of Profit in Nigeria [re: Chevron]
- Help companies change – Build support for new human rights resolutions at Chevron and Dow
[also refers to ExxonMobil, Unocal (part of Chevron), Wal-Mart, Texaco (part of Chevron), Leggett & Platt, Home Depot, Wells Fargo]

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22 February 2006

Defining Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Abuses

Author: Bill Baue, SocialFunds.com

Business and Human Rights Seminar report maps the landscape of corporate complicity in human rights abuses, and addresses the dichotomy of mandatory laws versus voluntary codes...In terms of complicity, John Ruggie sees the clearest judicial definition as being rendered by the US Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, in the Unocal case...The Alien Tort Claims Act ( ATCA) case referred to was brought by 15 Burmese villagers alleging that Unocal commissioned Burmese soldiers to protect its Yadana gas pipeline knowing they committed murder, rape, and forced labor...Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan cited the cases of Yahoo revealing the identity of journalist Shi Tao to Chinese authorities, and Chevron quelling a protest by calling on Nigerian Joint Task Force soldiers, who killed one demonstrator. [also refers to BP, Goldman Sachs]

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22 February 2006

Interim report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

Author: UN Special Representative on business & human rights John Ruggie

...the Special Representative...takes as a premise that the objective of the mandate is to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights in relation to transnational corporations and other business enterprises but that governments bear principal responsibility for the vindication of those rights... Three broad contextual factors frame the Special Representative’s analysis of the rapidly evolving business and human rights: the institutional features of globalization; overall patterns in alleged corporate abuses and their correlates; and the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of existing responses established to deal with human rights challenges... Today, the widening gap between global markets and the capacity of societies to manage their consequences may pressure political leaders to turn inward yet again... Embedding global markets in shared values and institutional practices is a far better alternative; contributing to that outcome is the broadest macro objective of this mandate. [refers to BP, Unocal (part of Chevron)]

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Author: Representante Especial del Secretario General sobre empresas y derechos humanos

El Representante Especial del Secretario General...parte del principio de que el objetivo del mandato consiste en fortalecer la promoción y la protección de los derechos humanos en relación con las empresas transnacionales y otras empresas comerciales, pero que la principal responsabilidad de reivindicar tales derechos recae en los gobiernos...El análisis del Representante Especial acerca de la rápida evolución de la relación entre las empresas y los derechos humanos queda enmarcado en tres factores contextuales generales: las características institucionales de la mundialización; los cuadros generales de los presuntos abusos de las empresas y aspectos conexos; y los puntos fuertes y los puntos débiles característicos de las respuestas que se han venido dando para abordar los problemas de derechos humanos...Hoy día, la creciente brecha entre los mercados mundiales y la capacidad de las sociedades para afrontar sus consecuencias puede empujar a los dirigentes políticos a replegarse una vez más...Una opción mucho mejor consiste en anclar la mundialización de los mercados en los valores y las prácticas institucionales comunes: contribuir a lograrlo es el macroobjetivo del mandato del Representante Especial. [se refiere a BP, Unocal (parte de Chevron)]

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Author: Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général sur les Entreprises et les Droits de l'Homme

...le Représentant spécial...part...du principe que l'objectif de son mandat est de renforcer la promotion et la protection des droits de l'homme dans leurs rapports avec les sociétés transnationales et autres entreprises, mais que les États sont
responsables au premier chef de la défense de ces droits...L'analyse que le Représentant spécial fait de la situation - laquelle évolue rapidement - s'articule autour de trois grands axes: les aspects institutionnels de la mondialisation; les tendances générales des abus reprochés aux sociétés et leurs corrélats; les points forts et les points faibles des mesures prises pour faire face aux problèmes touchant les droits de l'homme...Aujourd'hui, le décalage de plus en plus marqué entre les marchés mondialisés et la capacité de la collectivité d'en gérer les conséquences pourraient conduire les dirigeants à opter pour un repli sur soi...Il vaut beaucoup mieux asseoir les marchés mondiaux sur des valeurs et des pratiques institutionnelles communes. Y contribuer est l'objectif le plus général du mandat confié au Représentant spécial. [fait référence à BP, Unocal (partie de Chevron)]

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