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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24 March 2007

Burma: Natural Gas Project Threatens Human Rights - South Korean, Indian Investments May Lead to Complicity in Abuses

Author: Human Rights Watch

...Human Rights Watch [has] expressed concern that the proposed construction of overland pipelines to transport...gas will involve the use of forced labor, and result in illegal land confiscation, forced displacement, and unnecessary use of force against villagers. Revenue from gas sales would also serve to entrench the brutal military rule in the country. Because of these well-founded concerns, Human Rights Watch urged companies with interests in Burma’s oil and gas deposits to suspend activity until they can credibly demonstrate that their projects can be carried out without abusing human rights... The Shwe gas project is led by...Daewoo International... Other consortium partners include...ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL)...; the Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL); and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS)... [also refers to PTT Exploration and Production (part of PTT), Petronas, Nippon Oil, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Essar Oil; lawsuits against Unocal (now Chevron), Total]

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14 March 2007

Federal Judge Finds That Chevron Covered Up Role in Human Rights Abuses in Nigeria

Author: EarthRights International

United States District Court Judge Susan Illston issued an order today finding evidence that Chevron covered up its role in human rights abuses in Nigeria, and was involved in paying the brutal Nigerian military during the years of military dictatorship... Nine Nigerian plaintiffs sued Chevron in federal court in San Francisco in 1999 for deaths and other abuses in two incidents in 1998 and 1999, in which Nigerian military and police using Chevron helicopters and boats shot and tortured protestors... The judge found that there was evidence that Chevron had assisted its Nigerian subsidiary, known as “CNL,” in these operations... [also refers to settled lawsuit against Unocal (now part of Chevron)]

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19 February 2007

[PDF] Prepared Remarks at Clifford Chance

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

The first step in my exploration was to map the international standards – legal and otherwise – that currently govern corporate activities in relation to human rights... The next phase of work will be to develop views and recommendations for consideration by the Human Rights Council... Tonight I want to touch on a few highlights of the mapping itself... I’ll mainly emphasize some of the legal dimensions... [refers to lawsuit against Unocal (now part of Chevron); submission by Intl. Chamber of Commerce, Intl. Organisation of Employers, Business & Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD]

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20 November 2006

Myanmar: In harm's way - A proposed pipeline in Myanmar has farmers worried about their land and human rights activists up in arms

Author: Daniel Pepper, Fortune

The Indian government is proposing the construction of a pipeline running from the Shwe gas fields 20 miles off Myanmar's coast overland to India...experts say gas could begin pumping by 2009...The field is being developed by South Korea's Daewoo International...which has a 60% stake in the operation. India's ONGC Videsh, a subsidiary of state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corp., owns 20%. The two remaining 10% stakes belong to the Gas Authority of India and Korean Gas...David Mathieson, a researcher at Human Rights Watch...argues that in addition to abuses that may take place along the route of the future pipeline, profits accruing to the military regime will help it solidify its hold on power. "Where do you think that the money is going to go?" he says. "It's not going to education or health programs - it's going to the military to build a better command-and-control center to repress the population."...[also refers to Unocal (part of Chevron)]

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30 October 2006

11th Circuit Asked to Clarify Corporate Liability [USA]

Author: Julie Kay,

A federal judge in Miami has urged an appellate court to clarify key issues of corporate liability under a federal law that's been used against companies and foreign leaders for alleged human rights violations in other countries...U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez dismissed a human rights case against two Coca-Cola bottling companies that was brought...under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The 2001 lawsuit alleged that Panamco and Bebidas...assisted Colombian right-wing paramilitaries in killing several union members...Martinez ruled that even though the complaint described how Panamco plant managers allowed paramilitary groups into the plant and did not stop them from leaving threatening pamphlets, there was no evidence of a direct conspiracy between the paramilitary groups and plant managers...But Judge Martinez also asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to provide guidance to trial courts in handling cases brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act...The act has been increasingly used in recent years to bring human rights actions against corporations...Defendants have included Unocal, Nestlé and Wal-Mart...[also refers to cases brought against Del Monte, Drummond]

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28 October 2006

The UN Human Rights Norms for Corporations: The Private Implications of Public International Law

Author: David Kinley, Chair in Human Rights Law, Univ. of Sydney & Rachel Chambers, Barrister, Cloisters Chambers, London, in Human Rights Law Review (Oxford Univ. Press)

In this article, the authors explore the history of the Norms [UN Sub-Commission Norms on business & human rights] and the form and content of the debate that surrounds them, in their attempt to disentangle the legal from the rest. That said, the article also focuses on the real politicking of the circumstances in which the Norms now find themselves and it seeks to offer some guidance as to where the Norms--or at least their substance, if not their form--might go from here. [refers to Unocal (now part of Chevron)]

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26 October 2006

[PDF] Nestlé Sued in U.S. for Complicity in Murder of Colombian Union Leader - Wife Claims Food & Beverage Giant Retaliated for Husband’s Exposure of Company’s Use of Expired Milk in Popular Drink

Author: International Labor Rights Fund

Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, has been sued for complicity in the murder of a Colombian trade union leader by paramilitary forces with which the company has had a long-standing relationship. The suit was filed in U.S. [federal court]...on behalf of the wife of the slain unionist and his labor union, SINALTRAINAL. Gladys Francisca Mendoza Mejia claims that her husband, Luciano Enrique Romero Molina, was killed by paramilitaries associated with Las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) in retaliation for his discovery and exposure of Nestle’s use of expired milk in its popular Milo brand drink. [also refers to Deer Park (part of Nestlé), Coca-Cola, Unocal (now part of Chevron)]

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13 October 2006

Oil Companies Revamp Ethical Plans as Legal Risk Grows

Author: Benoit Faucon, Dow Jones

[A lawsuit against ExxonMobil relating to alleged abuses by the Indonesian military in Aceh] exemplifies how oil companies now face a rising risk to their reputations from the use of extra-territorial legislation. [They] increasingly invest in more risky and unstable parts of the world, leaving them open to charges of collusion with questionable regimes or practices... And that means the companies are implementing new, more stringent corporate policies, while at the same time trying to avoid a public airing of uncomfortable allegations in the courts. [also refers to lawsuits against Total (regarding Burma), Shell (regarding Nigeria), Talisman (regarding Sudan), BP, Unocal (now part of Chevron, regarding Burma)]

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1 October 2006

Global Lawyer: The Death of Alien Tort

Author: Michael Goldhaber, Corporate Counsel [USA]

...[In] a case pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals..., multinationals are in the dock for propping up apartheid. But if the defendants prevail, South Africa could be Waterloo for the notion that companies can be accountable for human rights abuses outside the United States...[The] most consequential alien tort question — whether a company can be liable for aiding and abetting human rights abuses — is still unresolved... The South African Apartheid Litigation seeks a sweeping $400 billion... In late 2004 Judge John Sprizzo...categorically rejected claims based on a corporation aiding and abetting human rights abuses, because "aiding and abetting" is not universally prohibited conduct...The judge gave special weight to the views expressed by the South African and U.S. governments. South Africa wrote in its amicus brief that, as a society, it has rejected reparations...[S]ooner or later the question of aiding and abetting will reach the Supreme Court...[W]ith the current composition of the Supreme Court, any test claim may be doomed. [also refers to Ford; IBM; lawsuits against Unocal (now part of Chevron), Occidental]

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31 August 2006

Why all companies should address human rights (and how the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre can help)

Author: Christopher Avery, Annabel Short, Gregory Tzeutschler Regaignon - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[this chapter appears in the the ICCA Handbook on CSR and Corporate Culture; a list of chapters in the handbook and ordering details can be found at] The following sections set out why human rights are relevant to all companies, and why it is important that all companies take human rights seriously. i. International standards require companies to address human rights... ii. Only human rights provide companies with a framework of globally recognised principles... iii. There are increasing expectations for companies to manage human rights issues... iv. There are significant risks for companies that don’t respect human rights... v. Companies benefit from taking a proactive stance on human rights... vi. Human rights are universal standards that go beyond national laws... [refers to ABB, adidas-Salomon, Anglo American, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Body Shop, BP, BT, Cape PLC, Carrefour, Chiquita, Chevron/Texaco, Coca-Cola, Co-operative Financial Services, ExxonMobil, Ford, Gap, Hewlett-Packard, ING, McDonald’s, MTV Networks Europe, National Grid, Nike, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Occidental, Premier Oil, Rio Tinto, Shell, Statoil, Taco Bell (part of YUM!), Talisman Energy, Union Carbide/Dow, Unocal, Wal-Mart]

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