Occidental Petroleum Faces Lawsuit for Its Role in Massacre in Colombia Plaintiff Questions CEO at the Company’s Annual Meeting


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Ada Recinos at +1.510.473.7542 or ada@amazonwatch.org

Los Angeles, CA — Luis Alberto Galvis Mujica, the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed yesterday against Occidental Petroleum, attended the company’s annual shareholder meeting today to question CEO Ray Irani about Occidental’s role in the 1998 Santo Domingo Massacre in Colombia.

“As a family member of the victims, as a witness, and a survivor, I seek the truth, justice, and reparations for the damages that were caused to my family,” said Luis Alberto Galvis Mujica. “You cannot imagine the pain that this incident has caused, the frightening remains of my loved ones burned, mutilated and almost impossible to recognize. I am here to ask you Occidental, why was your compound used to plan the bombing of my village? Please tell me, what was your role? Why was our village bombed? I believe I have the right to know exactly what happened.”

Outside the meeting, human rights advocates criticized and demonstrated against Occidental Petroleum and its security contractor Airscan for collaborating in the bombing that took the life of Galvis’s mother, sister and cousin among 11 civilians and 6 children.

Attorney Paul Hoffman, former Senator Tom Hayden and leading human rights advocates from Amazon Watch and Global Exchange gave accounts of the company’s “morally bankrupt and financially negligent” practices in Colombia as well as throughout the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon.

The lawsuit filed yesterday by international rights attorneys under the Alien Tort Claims Act charges that Occidental Petroleum and its security contractor, Airscan, participated in the air raid that led to the killing of innocent civilians in the hamlet of Santo Domingo, Colombia on December 13, 1998.

The case, which was brought forth by the International Labor Rights Fund and the Center for Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law, was filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The suit charges that both OXY and Airscan helped conduct the attack, providing key strategic information, as well as ground and air support to the Colombian military in the bombing raid on the town. Airscan’s “Skymaster” plane – which provides aerial surveillance for OXY’S Caño Limon oil pipeline – accompanied the Colombian air force during the bombing, using its infrared and video equipment to pinpoint targets on the ground. While allegedly targeting suspected rebels, no rebels were killed.

Occidental Petroleum’s Colombian operations are a magnet for violence and have been under fire from human rights and environmental groups for years. The company gained notoriety for its relentless attempts to drill for oil on sacred U’wa indigenous lands, but abandoned a direct role in that drilling effort after intense international criticism and local resistance.

“The lawsuit provides further evidence of what human rights and environmental groups have been saying all along—that OXY is a morally bankrupt company that directly perpetrates human rights abuses wherever it operates. It’s an outrage that U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for war zone operations of such a lawless corporation,” said Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch.

“Occidental Petroleum is directly funding the killings and displacement of innocent communities in the Colombian countryside. As much as the company likes to deny it, OXY is cozy with branches of Colombian military such as the 18th Bridgade and the Airforce,” said Liza Smith from the Colombia Program of Global Exchange. “This is the same military that has the worst human rights records in the hemisphere.”

“Occidental has been a chief architect of U.S. foreign policy toward Colombia, which continues to reward the company—despite its horrendous human rights practices,” said Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch.

U.S. military aid to protect OXY’s oil operations in Colombia reached $131 million in U.S. in 2003. Another $110 million is proposed in 2004 for the protection of OXY’s Caño Limon pipeline. This unprecedented corporate subsidy of $3.58 a barrel is a handsome payoff for OXY’s aggressive lobbying efforts and political contributions.

“This case builds upon the success we have had in using the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) to address egregious human rights violations committed by U.S. companies in their overseas operations,” said Terry Collingsworth, International Labor Rights Fund’s Executive Director.

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