ExxonMobil can be sued under U.S. law by Acehnese villagers

Villagers contend that the oil company has been complicit in human rights violations committed by Indonesian soldiers guarding the company’s operations in Aceh province.

U.S. district judge Louis Oberdorfer ruled 3 March 2006 that a lawsuit filed by the Washington, DC-based International Labor Rights Fund on behalf of the villagers may proceed to discovery. ILRF filed the lawsuit in June 2001, but hearings were postponed in 2002, after the U.S. State Department intervened, asking for dismissal of the case because it could have “a potentially serious adverse impact on significant interests of the United States.”

As many as 5,000 Indonesian soldiers have been deployed to protect the Arun natural gas and LNG facilities operated by the company (and owned jointly with Indonesia’s state oil company Pertamina and a Japanese firm), amid an armed secessionist conflict that raged in Aceh from 1976 to 2005. The military has committed numerous atrocities against civilians, including murder, torture, rape, and other abuses. ExxonMobil is alleged to have been complicit in these acts by making payments to the soldiers and by making its facilities and equipment available to them.

The company announced it would appeal the ruling.

Related Links:

“Exxon to Face Suit by Villagers Over Abuse Claims,” Bloomberg News , 3 March 2006.
Slobodan Lekic, “Exxon to Appeal Aceh Torture Case Ruling,” Associated Press, 9 March 2006.
Link: http://www.laborrights.org/press/ExxonMobil/exxonappeal_abcnews_030906.htm.