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THE NATION: UNOCAL PLEA ON RIGHTS C
Subject: re:THE NATION: UNOCAL PLEA ON RIGHTS CASE REJECTED (fwd)
Looks like the burmese case is mobilizing others. this came to the sudan
The following is an article about a precedent-setting case in the United
States Federal court. The reason why I am posting it is because the case
establishes that multinational corporations doing business/collaborating
with dictatorships guilty of gross human rights abuses can be sued in
American courts, even when the alleged victims are non-United States
citizens. This is a good development....!
Could a similar suit be brought against the oil companies doing business
with the Sudan government? There is certainly a record of human rights
abuses .... and the oil companies in Sudan have hardly been "neutral" or
"passive" in their stance toward the local people .... they have even
hired mercenaries to fight the so-called "rebels" on behalf of the
government, I've been told .... and apparently now they are using the SSIA
and other splinter factions as "human shields" to guard the oil projects
.... people have been displaced from their homes, I understand, without
just compensation .... (and apparently other abuses have occurred which
are similar to the Burmese case discussed in the article below) ....
Feedback, ideas, suggestions are welcome, especially if you have
information on the factual details and the social dislocation/costs of oil
exploration in Sudan .... as well as any human rights abuses directly
related to the oil project(s).
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 1997 18:43:01 -0400
To: Harvard Law School Project on Law and Ethnic Conflict -- Zahir Asmal
Subject: Re: PLEC: THE NATION: UNOCAL PLEA ON RIGHTS CASE REJECTED (fwd)
This interesting footnote in from T. Edgar:
If you are interested in the legal issues that the case raises, you
might want to check out Bradley & Goldsmith, Customary International Law
as Federal Common Law: A Critique of the Modern Position, 110 Harv. L.
Rev. 816 (1997).
>> THE NATION: UNOCAL PLEA ON RIGHTS CASE REJECTED
>> April 3, 1997
>> by Yindee Lertcharoenchok
>> A US federal court in Los Angeles last week accepted a precedent-setting
>> case brought by Burmese victims of alleged human rights abuses against oil
>> giants Total and Unocal, the contractors for the Yadana gas pipeline, and
>> two Unocal executives.
>> The court rejected a motion by Unocal to dismiss the case, which was filed
>> on Oct 3 last year. Unocal had argued the matter was outside the
>> jurisdiction of the US court.
>> US District Court Judge Richard A Paez on March 25 signed a 38-page order
>> accepting the complaint, submitted by a group of 15 Burmese plaintiffs.
>> The plaintiffs are seeking a court injunction ordering the multinational oil
>> corporations to stop their activities and to pay compensation for alleged
>> international human rights abuses that occurred as a result of the
>> construction of the US$1.2 billion (Bt31.2 billion) Yadana natural gas
>> In particular, the plaintiffs charge the ruling Burmese State Law and Order
>> Restoration Council (Slorc), the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise
>> (MOGE), the two oil companies and the two executives with legal
>> responsibility for violations of international human rights.
>> It accuses them of using forced labour in connection with the construction
>> of the pipeline and committing crimes against humanity, torture including
>> rape, and unlawful conspiracy.
>> Paez dismissed the complaint against Slorc and MOGE on the grounds that they
>> were entitled to sovereign immunity, but he still held them to be
>> ''indispensable parties" to the proceedings, ''because complete relief may
>> be accorded among the remaining parties in their absence".
>> Jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims against the remaining defendants -
>> the French oil firm Total, the American petro company Unocal, Unocal
>> president John Imle, and Roger C Beach, chairman and chief executive officer
>> of Unocal - was granted under the 1792 Alien Tort Claims Act.
>> The 200-year-old law allows a lawsuit against multinational companies in US
>> courts for actions and activities outside the US which violate international
>> The plaintiffs - victims of rape, forced labour, forced relocation,
>> assaults, and the death of family members - are represented by a coalition
>> of human rights organisations and private attorneys including EarthRights
>> International, the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the law
>> office of Hadsell and Stormer, etc.
>> The victims are joined by Louisa Benson, a representative of the ethnic
>> guerrilla Karen National Union and now a California taxpayer, who is suing
>> the partners in the Yadana consortium for unfair business practice.
>> In separate interviews in Bangkok and by telephone from the United States,
>> EarthRights and CCR lawyers said the March 25 court decision was crucial to
>> their attempts to bring the case against Slorc, MOGE and its foreign oil
>> According to Katherine Redford and Tyler Giannini of EarthRigths and Jennie
>> Green, a CCR staff attorney, the court's decision to grant jurisdiction over
>> Total and Unocal set a ''significant" or ''ground-breaking" precedent, as it
>> allowed victims the right to sue multinational corporations for violations
>> of international human rights law.
>> The 1792 tort act had previously been applied only to environmental matters.
>> ''It's significant because it recognises that multinational corporations can
>> break international human rights law.
>> ''This is the first case which deals specifically with forced labour and
>> other forms of human rights violations," Green said.
>> Redford, who is on an anti-Unocal-Total-Slorc campaign tour in the US to
>> raise the American public's awareness of alleged gross human rights abuses
>> as the result of the Yadana natural gas project, said the coalition acting
>> on behalf of the plaintiffs was deciding whether to appeal against the
>> exemption of Slorc and MOGE from the case.
>> According to Giannini, the March 25 decision enables the plaintiffs to move
>> into discovery - a process in which plaintiff-lawyers ask the defendants to
>> provide them with documents related to the pipeline project, including the
>> contracts and communications between partners in the Yadana consortium.
>> Both Unocal and Total have denied all charges against them, including
>> allegations of complicity with Slorc in its human rights abuses.
>> Several Thai human rights and environmental workers said yesterday the
>> plaintiffs' success in convincing the Californian court to listen to their
>> case inspired them to seriously study whether they could file a similar
>> lawsuit against the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT).
>> PTT is one of the four partners in the Yadana consortium. The state
>> enterprise on Feb 2, 1995, signed a 30-year agreement with the MOGE under
>> which Thailand will pay Bt10 billion annually for the purchase of Yadana gas.
>> The gas will be extracted from Burma's Gulf of Martaban and pass through a
>> seabed and overland pipeline across the southern Burmese Tenasserim Division
>> into Thailand. (TN)