Will American Jury Hold Oil Giant Chevron Legally Liable for Human Rights Abuses in Africa?

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Justice In Nigeria Now
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Will American Jury Hold Oil Giant Chevron Legally Liable for Human Rights Abuses in Africa?

As jury begins deliberation, Chevron again accused of shooting unarmed protesters in Nigeria last week.

SAN FRANCISCO - A San Francisco jury begins deliberations in a precedent-setting civil case – Bowoto v Chevron -  that seeks to hold US oil giant Chevron liable in the United States for human rights abuses in Nigeria after closing arguments are heard on Tuesday, November 25, 2008 in courtroom 10 of the Federal Building.

The jury will have to decide if what happened constitutes aiding and abetting on the part of Chevron in the death of two protestors, and the injury and subsequent torture of others who peacefully protested the destruction of their environment and livelihood caused by Chevron's oil production activities in May of 1998.  
Chevron’s operations have devastated local communities’ fishing economy and access to clean water. In response to the peaceful protest, Chevron summoned the notoriously violent Nigerian police and military and transported them in Chevron helicopters to the oil platform. Under the supervision of Chevron personnel, the Nigerian military and police killed two protesters and permanently injured others. Several protesters were taken to Nigerian jails, where they were tortured.  
“The jury's duty is, in my mind, clear and historical. It ought to give justice to the people of Ilajeland and send a clear message to Chevron that the company must renounce violence as a means of doing business,”  according to Omoyele Sowore, Nigerian journalist and activist .

The legal basis for the suit is the Alien Tort Statute, a law that enables foreign victims of human rights violations by corporations to hold those corporations accountable in US court. The Alien Tort Statute has been used in cases charging Unocal with violating the human rights of Burmese villagers during the construction of an oil pipeline in Burma, and charging Yahoo with giving the Chinese government information that allowed it to identify and arrest a Chinese dissident. Both of these cases ended in out-of-court settlements. Bowoto v. Chevron could be the first time a U.S. corporation would be held liable by a jury in U.S. courts for aiding and abetting human rights abuses committed overseas.
"This case is part of a broader trend towards ensuring corporate accountability. The Alien Tort Statute lets victims of egregious human rights abuses seek redress in U.S. courts, even if they were harmed outside of the United States. It is well established that aiding and abetting, an international law violation itself, violates international law. If the jury finds that Chevron in fact aided and abetted the Nigerian military here, then Chevron can appropriately be held liable in U.S. court under the Alien Tort Statute." according to  Chimène Keitner, Associate Law Professor at Hastings who specializes in International Law and International Tribunals, and International Law in U.S. Courts.  
On November 20, 2008 while Chevron was presenting its case U.S. Federal Court for the 1998 incident, Chevron in Nigeria was again complicit in the shooting of unarmed protesters. This time at their Escravos facility outside Warri, Nigeria, according to the Nigerian newspaper, the Vanguard: (http://www.vanguardngr.com/content/view/22287/43/) 
"We are not surprised that Chevron continues with business as usual treating communities in which they operate in inhumane ways and at best as nothing but irritants. A verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in this case will send a strong signal to Chevron and their fellow travelers that evil committed against a single human being anywhere in the world will one day be addressed in the public and the perpetrators will be brought to book" stated Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action, a non-governmental organization based in Nigeria.
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Extended statements by:
Omoyele Sowore
Nigerian writer and activist and editor for Sahara Reporters, a website focused on reporting on Nigerian politics. Sowore is also an adjunct professor at the school of Visual Arts in New York City.
 
"What shocked me most was that, even as the trial in San Francisco progressed, Chevron continued to extend its frontiers of violence against the inhabitants of Nigeria's oil producing hub. Chevron's egregious violence in Ilajeland occurred in 1998; that's when the company took on peaceful unarmed villagers by using Nigeria's aptly named 'kill and go' police. Secondly, Chevron arrogantly concealed the fact of its participation in murder and torture – until an American radio documentary exposed its involvement. Even now, the company is violently assaulting the truth and decency before an American audience and court by portraying the villagers of Ilajeland, innocent victims of Chevron's corporate greed and callousness, as hostage takers. The jury's duty is, in my mind, clear and historical. It ought to give justice to the people of Ilajeland and send a clear message to Chevron that the company must renounce violence as a means of doing business that the company must never use direct or indirect violence as a tool to conduct business – now or at any time in the future." 

Michael Watts
Professor at Berkeley, author of numerous books on the Niger Delta, Including the recently released, Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta. 
The Bowoto v. Chevron case represents a victory – indeed an historic watershed – whatever the outcome of jury deliberations in early December.  The details of the Nigerian case – of human rights abuses in the global operations of the oil and gas industry – can be replicated many times over in different industrial sectors in different parts of the world.  But identifying a problem is not the same as doing something about it, and having recourse to legal mechanisms to bring concerns of communities around the world to justice.  Much ink has been spilled on the question of corporate accountability.  The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has long debated the question of human rights and transnational corporations.  The Bowoto case shows that there is now a legal foundation of which cases can be heard in the US court system and this can and should represent a sort of precedent and model for a system of redress consistent with the idea of a normative system as it relates to business and human dignity.
Nnimmo Bassey
Executive Director of the Nigerian based Environmental Rights Action
We are not surprised that Chevron continues with business as usual treating communities in which they operate in inhumane ways and at best as nothing but irritants. The entire history of crude oil extraction in Nigeria has been strewn with dollars for the corporation and politicians but tears and blood for the local people. While old injustices are being deliberated on, new human rights abuses are being carried out in the murky creeks of the Niger Delta. A verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in this case will send a strong signal to Chevron and their fellow travelers that evil committed against a single human being anywhere in the world will one day be addressed in the public and the perpetrators will be brought to book.
Other's available to speak: 
Chimène Keitner
Associate Law Professor at Hastings specializes in International Law and International Tribunals, and International Law in U.S. Courts, and can speak to the significance of the Alien Tort Statute and this case.
Naomi Roht-Arriaza
Professor of Law at UC Hastings specializes in international human rights law and can speak to the significance of the Alien Tort Statute and this case.
Tyler Giannani
Clinical Director, Human Rights Program at Harvard. Professor Giannani can speak on the significance of the Alien Tort Statute, the precedent setting nature of this case and can compare it to similar recent cases including the case against Unocal that settled in 2005.  (Chevron bought Unocal shortly after)
Terry Lynn Karl
Political Science Professor at Stanford University. Gildred Professor of Latin American Studies; William and Gretchen Kimball University Fellow; Senior Research Scholar Professor Karl can speak on larger issues of the “resource curse” and the role that the Alien Tort Statute can play in corporate accountability.  
For contact info to reach the above people please get in touch with Sarah Dotlich at 415 575 5521 or 415 990-0792
Supporting facts:
Supporting evidence from Bowoto v Chevron:
In a fax sent from Chevron Nigeria Limited to Chevron Headquarters in San Ramon on May 27, 1998 the day before the shooting, CNL staff sent word to Chevron headquarters In San Ramon, California stating "The villagers were unarmed and the situation has remained calm since their arrival (on May 25, 1998)" The fax goes on to say: "Currently Chevron Nigeria Limited Public Affairs staff is meeting with the community leaders to discuss their concerns which are focused on employment and community development issues.  We expect the situation to be resolved soon and will provide a further update at that time"  
In an internal email between then General Manager of Government and Public Relations, Sola Omole, to Joseph Lorenz, then Chevron’s Public Affairs Manager for Africa, Europe, & the Middle East based in San Ramon, Mr. Lorenez states: “I’ve been told the youths are looking for employment and have thus far been peaceful” 
For a full list of witnesses, which day they testified and a summary of their remarks go to: http://bowotovchevron.wordpress.com/witness-index/
 For an outline facts and misrepresentations about the Bowoto v. Chevron case go to: http://www.earthrights.org/files/Legal%20Docs/Chevron/Myths%20and%20Facts%20FINAL.pdf
General facts about Chevron and Nigeria: 
Chevron is California's largest company and the third largest company in the U.S behind Walmart and Exxon Mobil (according to Fortune 500: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2008/) 
Chevron had record setting third quarter profits in 2008 - $7.89 billion in profit more than twice its take from the same period last year. For the first nine months of 2008, the San Ramon company's profit reached $19 billion, with sales of $222 billion. This amount already exceeds their total profits for 2007 which was $18.7 billion. Source:  http://chevron.com/news/press/release/?id=2008-10-31
Oil is Nigeria’s main export accounting for 95% of the country’s revenues
Oil was found in Nigeria in 1956 the small Niger Delta village of Oloibiri by Royal Dutch Shell
Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa
Nigeria is the 11th largest producer of oil in the world
Nigeria is the 8th largest exporter of crude oil in the world
In 2006 42% of the country’s oil was exported to the United States
Approximately 25% of the oil consumed by Americans comes from Nigeria
Nigeria fluctuates from being the 5th to the 3rd largest exporter of oil to the Untied States. Data on Nigerian oil production collected from the Energy Information Administration: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/country_energy_data.cfm?fips=NI
For more information about Bowoto v. Chevron, see the Justice in Nigeria Now (JINN) website: www.JusticeInNigeriaNow.org.
Excerpt from Vanguard article regarding Chevron’s involvement with the killing of unarmed protestors on November 20, 2008: http://www.vanguardngr.com/content/view/22287/43/
“In Warri, a woman and a young boy were shot, yesterday, by men of the Joint Task Force on the Niger Delta at Escravos in Delta State following a peaceful protest by Ugborodo youths against the Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) over job slots and contracts.
The two injured villagers were conveyed yesterday evening to an undisclosed hospital in Warri by the CNL for medical attention after the dust on the incident settled. However, a community source said seven persons were shot and gave their names as Ms Toju Akitikori, Messrs. John Toghanrose, Tony Mene, Samuel Mejebi and one Arubi all of whom are currently receiving treatment in various private clinics in Warri.”
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