Posts Tagged ‘Common Dreams’

Steven Donziger speaks out himself about being targetted by Chevron

August 17, 2020

In the Pozo Aguarico region of Ecuador, lawyer Maria Cecilia Herrera shows the oil pollution that remains in the ground 30 years after oil production ceased. Photograph by Enrico Aviles, 2020.

In the Pozo Aguarico region of Ecuador, lawyer Maria Cecilia Herrera shows the oil pollution that remains in the ground 30 years after oil production ceased. Photograph by Enrico Aviles, 2020.

After recalling the work and death of his friend Rosan Steve relates how the culprit, the oil giant Chevron, has been pursuing a scorched-earth campaign to avoid paying for the cleanup or helping any of the victims. In the process, Chevron and its main law firm – Gibson Dunn – has pioneered a new, highly unethical form of lawfare intended to intimidate environmental defenders in all 180 countries where it operates. I should know; I’m the main target of Chevron’s lawfare, which has involved 60 law firms and 2,000 lawyers.

Here’s some of the backstory. Multiple courts have found that from the late 1960s to 1992, Texaco deliberately dumped billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste across 1,500 square miles of previously pristine rainforest, poisoning groundwater and rivers residents depended on for drinking, bathing, and fishing. Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron, told local Indigenous peoples that the toxic waste was actually good for them, saying it would “nourish the brain and retard aging.”

In 1993, a coalition of 30,000 Indigenous peoples and rural communities fought back. The father of one of my Harvard Law School classmates asked me to join the team of Ecuadorian and American lawyers representing them. After hearing from leaders like Rosa and seeing the damage with my own eyes, I was appalled by what Texaco had done to these communities. Unlike BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this disaster was no accident. It was done by design to externalize production costs onto some of the most vulnerable communities on the planet—the very people whose historical role is to act as the guardians of the forest.

After years of fighting in courts in the U.S., Ecuador, and Canada, the coalition won an unprecedented $9.5B in damages. Several appellate courts and a total of 17 appellate judges affirmed the case unanimously, and Canada’s Supreme Court ruled the Ecuadorians had the right to enforce their judgment. Human-rights champions hailed the victory as the beginning of a new era of environmental accountability.

But then Chevron unveiled another component of its strategy to try to prevent the Indigenous plaintiffs from receiving a cent. The central feature was filing a civil RICO suit in U.S. federal court against me as well as all 47 Ecuadorian community leaders who signed the lawsuit, claiming that the entire case on which I had spent 18 years of my life had been nothing more than a “racketeering” conspiracy designed to “extort” money from the company. Judge Lewis Kaplan denied us a jury, refused to review any of the voluminous scientific proof of Chevron’s pollution, and then ruled in Chevron’s favor. He based his decision almost completely on the testimony of a man who later admitted to lying repeatedly under oath and to receiving huge payments from the company.

I continue to challenge Kaplan’s flawed decision, which has been rejected by multiple appellate courts in Ecuador and Canada. But largely because I would not turn over my computer and cell phone to Chevron (an order that many experts believe to be a violation of attorney-client privilege and one that I have appealed), Kaplan tried to prosecute me criminally for contempt. His charges were rejected by the federal prosecutor. Kaplan then took the extraordinarily rare step of appointing a private law firm, Seward & Kissel, to prosecute and detain me in the name of the government. Seward & Kissel later admitted that Chevron is actually a client of the law firm.

While I await my day in court, I’m now under house arrest. (I believe I’m the only lawyer in U.S. history detained pretrial on a contempt charge.) I’ve been confined to my small apartment for 12 months on a charge that carries a maximum of six months’ imprisonment. This has been incredibly hard on my 14-year old son as well as my clients, who have been denied their lawyer. Chevron clearly wants me confined so I can no longer work on the case or speak publicly about the company’s gross wrongdoing.

One thing that keeps me going is the fact that hundreds of top human-rights lawyers and dozens of Nobel Laureates have sprung to my defense. They see this abuse of power as the latest example of corporations trying to criminalize environmental activism. They know the use of corporate lawfare to target activists has been copied by a mining company in South Africa, a pipeline company in the U.S., and a logging company in Canada.

Two weeks ago, two retired U.S. federal judges provided a big boost. The Hon. Nancy Gertner (Harvard Law School) and the Hon. Mark Bennett (Drake University Law School) criticized their former colleague Kaplan in the news journal Law360 for the way he’s handled this case. I’m grateful for their courage, because it’s extremely rare for federal judges to call out colleagues publicly.

Please vote with your wheels and fill up your tank anywhere but Chevron. And I hope governments around the world will stand up to attempts to criminalize peaceful activism. They can start by refusing to do business with Chevron until the company learns to respect the rule of law and ceases its attacks on human rights defenders. We must not let this targeting of human rights defenders spread as quickly as the toxins that killed Rosa and the men, women, children whose names filled her notebook.

Steven Donziger

Steven Donziger is a human-rights advocate based in New York City. He can be followed on Twitter at @SDonziger. His legal defense fund is at www.donzigerdefense.com and Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía’s web site is makechevroncleanup.com

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/08/15/dont-let-big-oil-open-new-front-its-war-environmental-defenders

See also later: https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/a-new-justice-movement-emerges-to-defend-steven-donziger/

4th Annual Global Women’s March is on 18 January 2020

January 1, 2020

2020 women's march BELatina

On January 21st of 2017, millions of women and allies around the world took to the streets to make themselves seen and heard, demonstrating to advance women’s human rights. Now, nearly three years later, the Women’s March movement has announced that on 18 January, 2020, feminists and women’s human rights defenders will march yet again in the 4th Annual Global Women’s March.

Common Dreams also reported that women and men alike marched in France, Spain, Uganda, and other countries in November 2019 to demand that their elected officials work to end violence against women. In Spain, tens of thousands of people marched to recognize the day. But as the New York Times reported, the country’s far-right Vox Party—which, though still a minority party, doubled its representation in Parliament in recent elections—used the opportunity to affirm its opposition to a law aimed at protecting women from gender-based violence. Women gathered at City Hall in Madrid shouted, “This is shameful!” as Vox secretary-general Javier Ortega Smith spoke out against the law and called for national attention to men who are killed by their partners.

Women during a protest on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Nantes, France, on November 25, 2019. (Photo: Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Women during a protest on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Nantes, France, on November 25, 2019. (Photo: Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As part of the global effort, the International Labor Organization (ILO) called for ratification of its new Convention, adopted in June, to recognize the right of all people to be free from harassment and violence in their workplaces. “This commitment now needs to be turned into concrete, practical action,” the ILO wrote. “Violence and harassment in the world of work has enormous human, social and economic costs. Violence and harassment constitutes one of the greatest threats to decent work. No more excuses. Let’s work together and make the promise of Convention No. 190 a reality for all.”

It’s Official! The 4th Annual Global Women’s March is in January of 2020

Following threats to NGO offices in Israel, human rights defenders demand investigation

August 1, 2019

On Wednesday, death threats were found spray-painted outside the offices of Amnesty International in Tel Aviv and ASSAF, an organization which advocates for refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. (Photo: @AmnestyIsrael/Twitter)

Human rights defenders in Israel linked recent threats at three civil society organizations to the rhetoric and policies of the country’s government, which has worked to intimidate and suppress groups critical of its treatment of Palestinians and other marginalized people. Staff members at Amnesty Israel in Tel Aviv and the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF) on Wednesday found death threats written in spray paint on walls outside the organizations’ offices. A box containing death threats and a dead mouse was found around the same time at the Elifelet Children’s Activity Center, which cares for refugee children.

“We have filed a complaint with the police and we see this as the result of the ongoing campaign of incitement against aid and human rights organizations, led by the government,” tweeted Amnesty Israel. Amnesty International denounced the threats as “deplorable and malicious acts” which must be investigated and unequivocally condemned by the government.

The Israeli authorities should take a strong stand by publicly condemning these acts and making clear that attacks against NGOs will not be tolerated,” said Philip Luther, the group’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The Israeli authorities must also take steps to ensure that human rights defenders and civil society organizations more generally are effectively protected and can carry out their work free from threats, intimidation, or harassment.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/18/israel-deportation-of-human-rights-watchs-staff-member-again-on-the-table/ ]

…………”This is not the first time we are being threatened,” ASSAF wrote in a post on Twitter. “This is the result of the ongoing incitement campaign against aid and human rights organizations in Israel—with the encouragement and backing of politicians and public figures.” “You have to make sure this is the last time,” the group added, addressing authorities.

International Women’s Day 2017: honoring, defending and watching women human rights defenders

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day focuses on many different aspects of the struggle for the human rights of women. I have selected three special actions this year:

(1) a short piece honoring woman who are land rights defenders;

(2) a digital protection tool for women human rights defenders (Cyberwomen);

(3) a documentary film on how rape was made into a international war crime.

[Of course this blog has had many earlier posts on women human rights defenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/ ] Read the rest of this entry »