ExxonMobil lawsuit (re Aceh)

Indonesia troops guard ExxonMobilIn 2001, eleven Indonesian villagers filed suit against ExxonMobil in US federal court alleging that the company was complicit in human rights abuses committed by Indonesian security forces in the province of Aceh.  The plaintiffs maintain that ExxonMobil hired the security forces, who were members of the Indonesian military, to protect the natural gas extraction facility and pipeline which ExxonMobil was operating.  The plaintiffs further claim that ExxonMobil knew or should have known about the Indonesian military’s human rights violations against the people of Aceh.  The plaintiffs allege that they suffered human rights violations, such as murder, torture and rape, at the hands of these security forces. 

On October 14, 2005, a US federal judge ruled that the plaintiffs’ case may proceed on District of Columbia (DC) state law claims (which include wrongful death, theft by coercion and assault and battery), but he dismissed the plaintiffs’ federal claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.  On March 2, 2006, a US federal judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by ExxonMobil, and ordered the parties to proceed toward discovery in this case.  In January of 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied ExxonMobil's appeal of the lower court's denial of its motion to dismiss.  Additionally, the court of appeals denied ExxonMobil's petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the lower court to dismiss the claims against the company.  In July of 2007, ExxonMobil appealed to the US Supreme Court (petitioned for a writ of certiorari).  On 13 November 2007, the US Supreme Court invited the US Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the executive branch on this petition.  On 16 June 2008, the US Supreme declined to hear this case.  On 27 August 2008, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on a motion for summary judgment filed by ExxonMobil; the judge declined to grant the defendants’ motion.  The judge found that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient preliminary evidence to support their allegations of abuse and therefore the case should be submitted to a jury for trial.  On 30 September 2009, the US District Court ruled on another motion to dismiss from the defendants.  The judge granted ExxonMobil's motion to dismiss the case finding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case in a US court.  On 8 July 2011, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court's dismissal of the case, finding that a corporation should not be immune from liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The court remanded the lawsuit to the lower court.  ExxonMobil filed a motion with the Court of Appeals on 8 August 2011 asking the court to rehear the case en banc. In September 2014, a US federal court held that Indonesian villagers from the Aceh province can proceed with their claims against ExxonMobil.   In a decision issued in July 2015, a US federal court ruled that the plaintiffs' claims sufficiently "touch and concern" the United States and may proceed in US court.

- "Exxon Wants Rehearing in Corporate Liability Dispute", Mike Carcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 10 Aug 2011
- "Appeals Court Revives Torture Claims Against Exxon", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 8 Jul 2011
- "Judge Dismisses Indonesians' Lawsuit Against Exxon", Brent Kendall, Dow Jones, 30 Sep 2009
- “Judge Rejects Summary Judgment in Human Rights Lawsuit Against Exxon”, Mike Scarcella, Legal Times, 28 Aug 2008
- "Exxon faces lawsuit on killings in Indonesia", Bloomberg News, Associated Press, 17 Jan 2007
- "Exxon: Torture suit sets bad precedent", Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press, 8 Mar 2006
- “ExxonMobil Rejects Aceh Human Rights Abuse Claims”, Kirsty Alfredson, CNN.com, 22 Jun 2001

- ExxonMobil: Human Rights Policy

- Cohen, Milstein (co-counsel for the plaintiffs): ExxonMobil - Aceh, Indonesia

- International Rights Advocates (co-counsel for the plaintiffs): ExxonMobil: Case Summary (includes links to legal briefs filed in this case)

- [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Petition for Rehearing En Banc, 8 Aug 2011
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Reply Brief in Support of Petition, 23 Oct 2007
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Respondents’ Brief in Opposition, 9 Oct 2007
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, 20 Jul 2007

- US State Department: [PDF] Amicus Brief filed in Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil et al., 14 Jul 2003

- International Rights Advocates: [PDF] Complaint filed for Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil et.al., 11 Jun 2001

- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Opinion of the Court, 8 Jul 2011
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum Opinion, 30 Sep 2009
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum & Opinion, 27 Aug 2008
- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: [PDF] Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil, 12 Jan 2007

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Article
26 March 2009

Five Tips to Avoid the Human Rights Litigation Trap

Author: Jonathan Drimmer of Steptoe & Johnson, Corporate Counsel

For multinational corporations facing allegations of human rights abuses, the stakes have never been higher. Last winter, Chevron Corp. stood trial in an Alien Tort Claims Act case…, accused of responsibility for murder and torture carried out by the Nigerian military. In April an ATCA trial is set to begin against…Shell…, also for torture and murder by Nigerian forces. A trial…, to determine Exxon Mobil Corp.'s liability to Indonesian villagers over alleged killings and torture by Indonesian soldiers should take place later this year. Given the vast potential damages in these cases, along with the dramatic harm of accusations of complicity in human rights violations, attention to ATCA and human rights issues must be a priority for companies doing business overseas. [also refers to Rio Tinto, Pfizer]

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Article
29 October 2008

[PDF] Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches world’s first online portal profiling human rights lawsuits against companies

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches a free online portal – the first to bring together and demystify lawsuits from across the world alleging human rights abuses by companies. The portal summarises in non-legal language over 35 cases and the positions of each side, with more cases to be added soon. It also presents special commentaries by experts...Companies in profiled lawsuits include: AngloGold Ashanti, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Biwater, Blackwater, BP, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron/Texaco, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Dow/Union Carbide, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, Firestone, Ford, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Mitsubishi, Nike, Occidental, Rio Tinto, Severstal, Shell, Standard Chartered, Talisman, Trafigura, Total, UBS, Wal-Mart, Yahoo!

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Article
3 September 2008

Exxon Human Rights abuse in Aceh

Author: Erin Lyon, CSR Asia Weekly

Judge Oberdorfer of the District of Columbia…ruled that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to decide whether…Exxon should be held liable for the actions of Indonesian soldiers who, while guarding Exxon assets, committed human rights abuses…. [Exxon’s] Arun Project was based in Aceh…. In the 1980’s the Gerekan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) or the Free Aceh Movement was seeking independence for the region and as a result the Suharto Government declared the region ‘an area of special military operations’.…[U]nits of the [Indonesia military] were hired to provide security for [Exxon’s] operations. It is the actions of these hired military units that this case is based around…. [also refers to Pertamina, Japanese-Indonesia Liquid Natural Gas Company]

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Author: AFP

La justice américaine a tranché en défaveur du géant pétrolier ExxonMobil, poursuivi par des civils indonésiens pour complicité présumée dans des cas de tortures et de meurtres commis par des soldats indonésiens qui étaient chargés de la sécurité de ses installations...Les faits reprochés au groupe pétrolier concernent son site d'Aceh et remontent au début des années 2000..."Onze villageois affirment qu'ExxonMobil, deux de ses filiales (Mobil Corporation et ExxonMobil Oil Corporation), et sa filiale indonésienne ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia (EMOI) sont responsables des meurtres et tortures commis par des forces de sécurité militaires payées par EMOI pour assurer des services de sécurité"

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Article
28 August 2008

Judge Rejects Summary Judgment in Human Rights Lawsuit Against Exxon

Author: Mike Scarcella, Legal Times [USA]

A federal judge…said there is sufficient evidence for a jury to decide whether Exxon should be held liable for the actions of Indonesian soldiers who, while guarding Exxon assets, allegedly beat, shot, tortured and raped villagers eight years ago. Exxon lawyers…argue there is no evidence that the soldiers who reportedly injured the plaintiffs were the same guards assigned to protect gas fields…. Exxon also disputes that it had control over the soldiers guarding Exxon facilities. U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer of the District of Columbia concluded a jury must decide whether to hold Exxon accountable for the alleged actions of the soldiers.

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Article
27 August 2008

[PDF] John Doe I, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum & Opinion

Author: US District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer, US District Court for the District of Columbia

[Text of memorandum and opinion denying ExxonMobil's motion for summary judgment in this case.]

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Article
19 August 2008

Human Rights Violations Suit Against Exxon Will Be Heard

Author: Mike Scarcella, Legal Times [USA]

A federal judge last month ruled that a suit alleging human-rights violations against Exxon can be heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. But until last week, that ruling had been under seal. The decision is a victory for the plaintiffs in a rare case that seeks to hold a U.S. company responsible for action rooted abroad. Eleven villagers from Aceh, Indonesia, say Exxon should be held liable for alleged violent crimes by Indonesian guards assigned to protect an Exxon facility. Judge Louis Oberdorfer ruled the court is the proper jurisdiction for the complaint…. Oberdorfer has yet to rule on a motion for summary judgment or set a trial date.

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Article
12 August 2008

Exxon Loses Bid to Shield Information From Federal Court Records

Author: Mike Scarcella, Blog of Legal Times [USA]

As part of a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil that alleges human rights violations, a federal judge is exposing information the oil giant wanted to keep secret. Eleven villagers from Aceh, Indonesia, are suing Exxon in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming soldiers who were guarding Exxon facilities tortured and killed villagers in 2000... Attorneys for Exxon...urged a U.S. District Court judge to keep under seal Exxon correspondence...that generally addresses rising violence in Indonesia... The 18-page opinion, written by U.S. District Court Judge Louis Oberdorfer, was filed last month and unsealed, in its entirety, Monday. It says the case against Exxon can be heard in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Oberdorfer’s opinion includes snippets of email correspondence between Exxon executives who discuss the "complete breakdown of law and order" in Indonesia.

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Article
11 August 2008

[PDF] John Doe, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum Opinion

Author: Judge Louis Oberdorfer, US District Court for the District of Colombia

[Opinion unsealing court's order of 18 July 2008 denying defendant's motion to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction.]

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Author: AFP

La Cour suprême américaine a validé aujourd'hui une plainte pour atteintes aux droits de l'Homme contre...ExxonMobil après des exactions commises par les services de sécurité d'une exploitation de gaz naturel en Indonésie... En juin 2001, onze villageois indonésiens de la province d'Aceh ont déposé plainte contre Exxon devant un tribunal américain, dénonçant des dommages pour les crimes commis pour assurer la sécurité d'un gisement exploité par le géant américain...

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