In February of 2011, the Ecuadorian Courts delivered a historic verdict, sentencing the Big Oil Corporation Chevron-Texaco to pay US $9,500 million dollars for its contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon (1964-1992).
However, Chevron hit back via the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS) and sued Ecuador in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in the Hague. The corporation accused Ecuador of having violated Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) it had signed with the US.
In August of 2018, a private arbitration panel for the CPA ruled in favour of Chevron, ordering Ecuador to overturn the sentence it had passed in favour of the affected.
At the heart of the matter is an illegal, unconstitutional and inapplicable judgement that contravenes international public order.
Pablo Fajardo and Justino Piaguaje, lawyer and representative of the Union of those affected by the Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT) respectively, explain how this ruling violates Ecuadorian sovereignty and constitutes a major case of corporate impunity that risks setting dangerous precedents for the defence of the natural world and of collective human rights.
OPINION: A promising negotiation is taking place at the UN Human Rights Council. A legally binding treaty on business and human rights could give victims transnational corporations’ malpractice a lot more power to pursue the justice they deserve. The EEB is stepping up its efforts to make the most of this opportunity to achieve environmental justice globally.
By Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
In 1993, Ecuadorian citizens sued Texaco (that became Chevron) for leaving behind a massive amount of deadly pollution from decades of oil operations in the Amazon Rainforest. Twenty years and an unprecedented legal ordeal later, Ecuador’s Supreme Court ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion to clean up. Chevron refuses and instead paid a vast army of lawyers and PR firms to sue the victim’s lawyers and discredit them and Ecuador’s Supreme Court. The EEB crowdfunded for the lawyers who defend the 30.000 Ecuadorean plaintiffs. They are still proceeding the case in Canada. 26 years after opening a court case that they won at the highest level six years ago, the victims still face massive pollution problems and corporate impunity.
This case explains why it was Ecuador who took a bold initiative. In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution drafted by Ecuador and South Africa. An open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights, chaired by Ecuador, was established. After three sessions in 2015, 2016 and 2017, a ‘zero draft’ of this new legally binding treaty on business and human rights was presented.
“We regret that that there is no mention of the need to protect Human Rights and Environmental defenders and journalists from abuse, harassment, criminalization and harm. It is often thanks to the work of defenders and the media that victims are able to organize themselves to claim their rights. There should be dissuasive measures on corporations and governments that use methods to silence defenders.”
In the past decade, the number of environmental defenders killed, often on the order of or by the transnational corporations that this treaty tries to regulate, has gone from one a week to four a week.
Carlsson also said that in order to truly have justice for victims, “it is important that they are given the opportunity to ask the courts for injunctive measures, including relief.” She also listed a list of positive elements in the draft that should not get compromised in further negotiation stages. The draft of this treaty attempts to widen the scope of jurisdiction for victims, allowing them to benefit from the most protective legislation. Multinational corporations already have the means to benefit from “forum shopping”, picking the countries with the legislation most favorable for their case.
The legally binding treaty on business and human rights is a promising initiative that could seriously improve global environmental justice. That is sorely needed, given the fast-rising global environmental justice movement, which is linked to the ever increasing amount of environmental conflicts, which the EEB also helps to map in the Atlas of Environmental Justice. The treaty is also a direct opposite of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms adopted in trade deals, as they expand the powers of transnational corporations. The EEB is one of 100s of organizations behind an European campaign that calls for rights for people and rules for corporations. Aside from stopping ISDS, the organizations behind this campaign want the EU to fully engage with the UN Treaty on business and human rights.
You can join the more than 500.000 Europeans who support this campaign here.
Originally published by Nick Meynen at metamag.org, link here
Press release by the Ecuadorian minister for Energy
This past week, 26 February 2019, the government of Ecuador announced (article in Spanish) that it will repair the environmental damages caused by Chevron in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
This declaration by Carlos Perez, the Minister of Energy of Ecuador, surprised the UDAPT — the Union of those Affected by Texaco-Chevron. The UDAPT organization were neither informed nor consulted. Now, the UDAPT fear that there may be an agreement between the multinational and the national government of Ecuador which they do not know about.
The UDAPT will not accept reparations as approved by an old agreement between Chevron and Ecuador from 1995-1998. The Ecuador government then agreed to conditions which consisted of sometimes hiding parts of the pollution, such as dirt piled on top of oil pits.
The UDAPT demand that the process of remediations be made transparent. They want to fully participate. The remediation process has to account for more than just the clean-up of the pollution Chevron left behind. The process must restore the water sources, rivers and ecosystems. The UDAPT peoples need good health programs for their high rates of cancer and illnesses. After 26 years of pollution, they require the rehabilitation of indigenous cultures, which they feel is the minimum of reparation to be done.
Most importantly, the UDAPT also demand the remediation process is transparent. They demand to be consulted at each level.
Tuesday 27 February Facebook event:
A Facebook LIVE event was held Tuesday, 27 February 2019, at 11:00 AM Quito, Ecuador time.
ICYMI: In Case You Missed It
Here is the video which you can turn into a WATCH TOGETHER event:
Facebook Posts by Attorney Pablo Fajardo
TRANSLATION of Pablo Fajardo’s post:
REPUDIABLE THE ACTION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF ECUADOR. Friends, today the Ecuadorian State through the person of Mr. Carlos Perez, Minister of Petroleum, informed us that the State will remedy the assets left for them by Chevron in Orellana and Sucumbios. That fact is serious. There is a verdict that finds Chevron guilty and condemns it to pay the cost of environmental remediation. Now the State, with money from all of us, wants to remedy what Chevron harmed. This fact apparently reflects a possible agreement between the oil company and the Ecuadorian State. They could not annul the sentence, now they are looking for other mechanisms to weaken the people’s struggle for access to justice. The lack of transparency of the Ecuadorian State in this matter is repudiable and condemnable, they know that there is a condemnatory sentence, and they have not been able to inform and consult those affected. What is more, with what parameters do they want to remedy? With those who have applied Chevron and the State in the past? With those who determine the sentence? We repudiate this fact and we oppose this supposed remediation if all these facts are not clarified first. I invite you, friends, to remain attentive.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
For further information, please read here at the www.texacotoxico.net website (Spanish version available only).
CALL TO ACTION:
Please become active and support this 26-year old case. Write your thoughts or submit pictures you have taken in the jungle of the Amazon. Links for Bloggers Versus or Photogs Versus.
The signatories of these letters concur in asking the Ecuadorian authorities to be guarantors of Human Rights. They ask the Ecuador government leaders to reject the application of the decision of the arbitration tribunal.
On the contrary, there remains a risk that the power of the oil company will force Ecuador, through coercive mechanisms, to discard the judgments, setting a serious precedent against the sovereignty of the State.
What can you do?
Just as in other posts, you can have your voice join others who believe #HumanRights trump #CorporatePrivileges and spread awareness through your friends and family, through posting this onto social media channels which in turn will inspire other, like-minded folks. You can start here with a number of options.
UDAPT Tells Story of Battle for Justice on New Website
One of the biggest oil spills in the history of our planet happened in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, contaminating an area of almost 5 000 square km. They seek justice in, what is called in legalese, “reparations.”
The word reparations mean money. They need this money not to enrich themselves, but to build health care facilities and programs for their people. And their lands with contaminated oil pits need to be further cleaned up, a monumental challenge and task.
The affected communities and peasants have united themselves in the UDAPT organization. For 25 years they have been seeking this type of justice for their peoples through the courts.
UDAPT needs as much help as possible, especially social media attention and money for their worthy cause.
That’s why they developed a new website. On the new UDAPT website you can read about the people involved, the effects on the communities, the programs they have developed so far, and the long legal battle for justice.
If you use these, we can find your help, like and/or re-post it!
Why do you want to share or donate?
This Case Is About Human Environmental Rights for All of Us
This case also deals with human rights versus corporate interests. It is about corporations learning to conduct social enterprise: the cost of doing business in larger terms of just taking from the earth and changing it into money.
The facts of this case: in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, the oil company Chevron-Texaco left a contaminated mess behind the size of 1 850 square miles (4 800 sq.km). From 1964 – 1990, Chevron-Texaco used inadequate and obsolete oil extraction methods, and ended up dumping toxic waste and crude oil into pits in the jungle.
When they left the area, the local communities stayed behind with contaminated water and oil pits. Nobody in the communities knew the oil would be so bad for their health. Children played in the waters, not knowing the effects long-term. This led to much higher disease rates and even deaths in their communities.
United in UDAPT
Six indigenous nationalities and 80 peasant communities, who had lived and live in these contaminated areas, began the nonprofit organization called UDAPT (Union of People Affected by Texaco). In 1993, UDAPT started the first case against Chevron (then Texaco) for the damage in the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana.
The goal was to make Chevron repair the contaminated Northern Ecuadorian Amazon — the lungs of our earth — and provide health care for the people.
Chevron Refuses to Pay
In 2013, the National Court of Justice of Ecuador ordered the multinational Chevron Corporation to pay US $ 9.5 billion in order to build health care programs and restore contaminated areas.
When the case started, Chevron had promised to submit to the judgments of the Ecuadorian courts. In the end, the oil giant refused to pay for the damages.
Since then, the UDAPT-plaintiffs have had to seek enforcement of this Ecuadorian verdict in other countries, where the oil company does have assets (funding to provide healthcare and repair the damages).
Finally this year, their case has landed before the Supreme Court of Canada to seek justice, after a long struggle of appeals and arguments. The case has now achieved the status of a landmark case because of the legal issues it claims and encompasses.
It now functions as an example for other, similar cases about human environmental rights, after 25 years of litigation.
YouTube film by Klima-Allianz Schweiz, 18 October 2018
The UDAPT, the Ecuadorian organization that represents over 30,000 peoples, 6 indigenous tribes, and peasants who are negatively affected, to this day, by the polluted messes left behind by Chevron-Texaco in their Amazonian backyard, participated in a march held in Geneva, by the Climate Alliance Switzerland.
The battle against climate change cannot be won without social justice.
Show your support by sharing widely, please and thank you!