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November 25, 2008 1:44 PM

Jury Deliberations Begin in Human Rights Case Against Chevron

Posted by Daphne Eviatar

Jury deliberations began on Tuesday in San Francisco in Bowoto v. Chevron, in which Nigerian villagers seek to hold U.S. oil giant Chevron liable for human rights abuses carried out by that country's military, including the shooting of unarmed protesters that led to two deaths and numerous permanent injuries.

Robert Mittelstaedt, partner at Jones Day and lead counsel defending Chevron, has argued that the protesters’ May 1998 takeover of a Chevron oil platform was not a peaceful protest, as the plaintiffs claim, but an “illegal invasion.”

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, in an earlier ruling in the case, said the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence that Chevron personnel "were directly involved" in the attack on protesters by transporting the Nigerian soldiers despite knowing that they were "prone to use excessive force," and that the evidence could lead a jury to conclude that Chevron agreed to the military's plan and was complicit in the outcome. (Download Chevron order.)

As The Am Law Daily reported when the trial began, the suit--based on the Alien Tort Claims Act--has potentially wide-reaching implications for corporations involved in the extractive industries in politically explosive regions around the world.

Given the significance of the case, plaintiffs are represented by a broad swath of plaintiffs' firms and public interest organizations, including The Center for Constitutional Rights; EarthRights International; Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick; Traber & Voorhees; Siegel & Yee; Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman and the Law Offices of Judith Brown Chomsky.

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Anyone who is interested in justice for violations of environmental and human rights should watch this case carefully. The Alien Tort Claims Act under United States law can provide the forum of last resort for people around the world seeking justice for abuses suffered at the hands of transnational corporations. We should be proud that we have a legal system which is structured and capable of providing remedies for such abuses. I'll be watching and covering these and similar cases at http://charleselliott.typepad.com/rights/

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