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
30 June 2004

[PDF] full report: "In Our Court: ATCA, Sosa and the Triumph of Human Rights"

Author: EarthRights International

This report seeks to summarize the history, jurisprudence and politics of ATCA in order to explain how this relatively obscure law became a lightning rod in the world of business and human rights...[refers to Unocal, Chevron (part of ChevronTexaco), ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoRan, Shell, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Total, Halliburton, Talisman, United Technologies, Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), Coca-Cola, Tidewater, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Southern Peru Copper (joint venture Grupo México, Cerro Trading, Phelps Dodge), Newmont, DynCorp (part of Computer Sciences), Ford, Union Carbide (part of Dow), Citigroup, UBS, Credit Suisse, Barclays, IBM, General Motors, Westinghouse, Bank of America, Rio Tinto, Pfizer, DaimlerChrysler, Occidental Petroleum, Drummond, Titan, CACI, Eastman Kodak, Paribas (part of BNP Paribas)]

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Article
30 June 2004

Human Rights Abuses Worldwide Are Held to Fall Under U.S. Courts

Author: Linda Greenhouse, New York Times

A Supreme Court decision on Tuesday kept federal courts open to lawsuits by foreigners who allege that they were victims of serious human rights violations anywhere in the world...[T]he result was a sharp disappointment to international business interests, which have been alarmed by increasing use of the law to sue multinational corporations for human rights violations and had looked to the Supreme Court to curb the trend. [refers to Unocal]

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Article
30 June 2004

Supreme Court: Foreign Victims of Abuse May Sue in US

Author: Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service

[T]he U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a 215-year-old anti-piracy law can continue to be used by foreign victims of serious human rights abuses access to U.S. courts for redress...[The Court] rejected arguments by the [Bush] administration and multinational corporations that the law should not provide victims of serious abuses with the right to sue for damages in U.S. courts.

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Article
29 June 2004

ATCA Lives!

Author: EarthRights International

In a huge victory for victims of human rights abuses, the Supreme Court today affirmed that non-U.S. citizens may sue their abusers in U.S. federal court, under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA).

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Article
29 June 2004

New limits on overseas companies' lawsuits [ATCA lawsuits in U.S. courts alleging human rights abuses by companies]

Author: Patti Waldmeir, Financial Times

The US Supreme Court yesterday handed a partial victory to international businesses when it narrowed the scope of lawsuits that can be brought in US courts alleging misconduct by companies abroad. But the court stopped short of barring all suits under the controversial Alien Tort statute, a 1789 law recently used by human rights activists to sue multinational companies in US courts over involvement in human rights abuses abroad.

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Article
29 June 2004

USA: Core Principles of Alien Tort Claims Act Upheld - Foreign Victims of Human Rights Abuses Preserve Access to US Courts

Author: Amnesty International USA

[T]he Court has recognized that ATCA still allows suits for violations of international norms that are "specific, universal, and obligatory." Amnesty International believes that violations such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, extrajudicial execution, prolonged arbitrary detention and slavery-like conditions meet the Court's standard...[A] growing number of cases have focused on the role of multinational companies in violations of international human rights laws.

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Article
20 June 2004

[DOC] From Talk to Walk: The Emergence of Human Rights Responsibilities for Corporations at International Law

Author: David Kinley & Junko Tadaki, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University [Australia], in Virginia Journal of International Law

...there are abundant reasons why the legal regulation of [transnational corporations'] activities at all levels of impact is sought, ought to be sought, and is sometimes achieved. This article is concerned with developing the arguments for, and designing the architecture of, such regulation with respect to the human rights obligations of corporations at the level of international law. [circulated to staff of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); not formally submitted to OHCHR's 2004 consultation on business & human rights] [includes brief references to adidas, BHP Billiton, BP, ChevronTexaco, Coca-Cola, Deutsche Bank, Gap, Levi Strauss, Nike, Phillips-Van Heusen, Reebok, Rio Tinto, Shell, Unocal]

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Article
31 May 2004

States and Corporations: Legal Responsibilities to the People

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

[A] special report on the legal, civil and criminal responsibilities of states and corporations to the people for the violation of their human rights. It explains the international legal framework and the mechanisms available that may be used to hold corporations accountable. Finally, it mentions opportunities for and limitations to advancing an agenda for women through these mechanisms. [refers to Shell, Dow Chemical, Occidental Chemical (part of Occidental Petroleum), Dole, Standard Fruit (now Dole), Standard Fruit & Steamship (now Dole), Chiquita, Monsanto, Pemex, BHP Billiton, Cambior, ExxonMobil, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Total, Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical)]

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Article
13 May 2004

Analysis: Is trying to kill the Alien Tort Claims Act digging for fool’s gold?

Author: Paul Tarr, New York-based lawyer and public affairs consultant, in Ethical Corporation

To date, major brands including Unocal, ChevronTexaco, Union Carbide [part of Dow Chemical], ExxonMobil, Gap, Coca-Cola, [Fresh Del Monte Produce], Citigroup, Ford and Nike have been sued under the ATCA for complicity in human rights violations...Ultimately, MNCs can have an impact in the public debate over the ATCA. They can do so by demonstrating a commitment to transparency and dialogue with governments and NGOs, and through a palpable sense that abuses committed in connection with their overseas investments will not be tolerated.

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Article
5 May 2004

Rights and wrongs

Author: John Vidal, Guardian [UK]

For the past 15 years, Wa...has been moving clandestinely about Burma, recording the abuses which he says inevitably surround the rampant exploitation of the country's rich natural resources...[refers to Premier Oil, Unocal]

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