Trade Tribunal Validates Corporate Abuse of Amazonians by Ruling in Chevron's Favor

Amazon Watch

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Paul Paz y Miño at +1.510.773.4635 or paz@amazonwatch.org


Today a three-member investor-state arbitration panel found in favor of oil giant Chevron, ruling that the Republic of Ecuador violated a trade agreement with the U.S. when the country's courts found Chevron guilty for deliberately dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in the Amazon rainforest from 1964 to 1990. The panel ruled that Ecuador violated the treaty by allowing its court system to issue a $9.5 billion judgment against the company. It also ordered Ecuador to pay reparations to Chevron, though the amount has not yet been set. Chevron has asked for the full amount of the judgement against it, which it has never paid.

The ruling stems from an action brought by Chevron as part of its attempts to evade the 2011 judgment by an Ecuadorian court. That ruling was later ratified by an Ecuadorian appeals court and ultimately upheld by its highest court, which reviewed and dismissed Chevron's fraud allegations. The affected communities originally filed suit in New York, but the trial was moved to Ecuador after Chevron successfully argued that Ecuador was the proper venue and agreed to be bound by the rulings of its courts.

After an exhaustive eight-year process which reviewed tens of thousands of soil and water samples, health studies, witness testimony, and much other evidence, the Ecuadorian courts ruled against Chevron and ordered it to pay restitution to the affected communities. Rather than abide by its agreement, the oil giant filed a RICO suit in the U.S., alleging fraud in the Ecuadorian trial. The judge in the RICO trial, Lewis Kaplan, refused to allow any testimony or evidence about the actual contamination and its effects during the trial, and the affected communities were unable to participate in the proceedings. Chevron's key witness in that case, Alberto Guerra, who was paid close to $2 million by Chevron, later admitted before the tribunal that he lied under oath about fundamental issues during the RICO trial.

Amazon Watch Associate Director Paul Paz y Miño made the following statement in response to the ruling:

"It is absurd that an international trade tribunal can circumvent a sovereign democratic nation's independent judiciary. Ecuadorian courts were essentially found guilty of considering the evidence against Chevron and holding the company to account.

"Chevron's suit before the Investor-State Dispute System (ISDS) panel is the latest attempt by Chevron to evade responsibility and accountability for its toxic dumping in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and it is yet another example of how corporate interests use every available means, including shadow 'justice' systems, to trample the rights of indigenous peoples and family farmers who have suffered immeasurable harm.

"The only legal proceeding that has reviewed all the evidence and heard testimony from the actual victims is that which took place in Ecuador – and Chevron was found guilty. Chevron must respond for the harm it has caused, and plaintiffs will continue to pursue enforcement in Canada and beyond.

"If Chevron succeeds at evading the legitimate ruling in Ecuador, multinational corporations will have yet more power to run roughshod over regular people, both at home and abroad. Those of us who care about justice must NOT let that happen."

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