On 25 November 2015, the CETIM submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders a report regarding Chevron Corporation attacks against human rights defenders in the United States and Ecuador. His urgent intervention was requested to stop Chevron’s attempts at criminalizing the victims of its activities in Ecuador and silencing their defenders.
Chevron is responsible for one of the worst oil-related disaster on the planet. In 26 years of oil drilling in the Amazon region of Ecuador, Chevron (formerly Texaco) polluted more than 450,000 hectares of one of the planet’s richest biodiversity regions, destroying the living and subsistence of its inhabitants. Chevron intentionally discharged into Ecuador’s rainforest more than 30 times the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster. More than 60 billion liters of toxic waste water were dumped into the rivers and streams and 880 hydrocarbon waste pits were dug.
After 22 years of litigation, and despite a ruling by the Ecuadorian courts, impunity continues for Chevron, and the victims of its activities in Ecuador are still waiting for justice and compensation. For its part, Chevron denied liability and has devoted enormous efforts and resources to get the judgement set aside, persecute the victims and silence their defenders.
“This case clearly shows the need for a binding international treaty on TNCs and human rights because in the current situation most states are not able to hold TNCs accountable, only the most powerful do” said Melik Özden, director of the CETIM.
Thus, whereas the United States has just made the BP oil company pay $18.7 billion for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Chevron’s victims in Ecuador are still waiting for justice and reparation.
The CETIM supports the Union de Afectados por la Petrolera Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador (UDAPT), that represents the 30’000 victims and affected communities in Ecuador, in gaining access to and obtaining the intervention of the United Nations protection mechanisms. Two separate reports (written statements) have already been submitted to the Human Rights Council in June 2014 and June 2015 (see A/HRC/29/NGO/23 and A/HRC/26/NGO/74).
In this new communication to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the focus is on the severe campaign of retaliatory litigation and other intimidation inflicted by the company and its agents against the Ecuadorian communities who won a significant environment judgment against Chevron Corporation in 2011.
“The intervention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur is needed in order to remind the countries involved that international human rights law obliges them to ensure that their systems of justice have safeguards sufficient to prevent powerful actors like multinational corporations from manipulating court processes in order to intimidate or retaliate against opponents at the cost of the freedom of expression and other human rights”, explained Aaron Marr Page, legal adviser and defenders of the victims in the United States.
For his part, Pablo Fajardo, head counsel for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, argued that the Ecuadorian victims have “struggled nine years in the courts of the United States, twelve years in Ecuador, three years in the courts of Canada, Brazil and Argentina, and now also before the International Criminal Court but unfortunately, despite all the effort, and the strength of many judges and judicial systems, full access to justice has not been granted yet. This makes us think that the problem lies in the judicial system that protects corporations and makes them unpunisheable for the serious environmental, social and cultural crimes committed in many parts of the world ».
In the report submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur, attention is drawn to a deeply troubling strategy with which Chevron has, for years, used civil and quasi-criminal lawsuits, and criminal complaints, against the human rights defenders who oppose it. The strategy is transparently a part of the company’s larger objective of “tainting” the environmental judgment against it with manufactured allegations of bribery, fraud, and even “extortion.” The need to manufacture such claims has led the company to deploy yet more oppressive tactics, including the filing of dozens of “discovery” lawsuits aimed at private and attorney-client privileged information, cash payments to witnesses for “fact” testimony, and the use of dozens of private investigators to spy on the defenders every move, including their privileged conversations with their attorneys.
The strategy subjects the defenders to severe intimidation, physical and emotional harassment, damage to reputation, financial burden to the point of bankruptcy, and even fear of trumped-up penal consequences.
The foregoing legal actions, initiated by Chevron and clearly manifesting a strategy of intimidation and pursuit of a self-interested objective (tainting the environmental judgment against it), represent an urgent situation threatening human rights defenders and their cause.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders is called to intervene in defense of the human rights principles and defenders under attack by way of this strategy, and to urge the United States to implement measures that will better protect human rights defenders from abusive civil and quasi-criminal litigation of this sort.
Read the full report here