Statement on Excessive Judicial Order Demanding That Steven Donziger Surrender His Passport

Amazon Watch, Global Witness, Rainforest Action Network

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On Tuesday June 11th, Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US Federal Court in the Southern District of New York issued an order demanding that Steven Donziger, a key attorney in a civil lawsuit in Ecuador which found Chevron Corporation liable for $9.5 billion in 2011 for reckless and willful environmental destruction while it operated under the Texaco brand from 1964 to 1992, surrender his passport as penalty for Mr. Donziger's refusal to release his personal computer and mobile phone to the court. Mr. Donziger has been held in contempt of court since May 23.

Since obtaining a favorable verdict in its RICO lawsuit against Mr. Donziger and several Ecuadorian citizens (obtained without the benefit of a jury despite a request by the defendants), Chevron has sought to subpoena ongoing associates of Mr. Donziger and used legal pressure and intimidation to try to prevent Mr. Donziger from raising support for the Ecuadorian's case against Chevron. This despite the fact that Judge Kaplan stated that Mr. Donziger can continue efforts to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment outside the U.S.

The right of freedom of movement is recognized under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Judge Kaplan's order is clearly intended to restrict this right and prevent Mr. Donziger from traveling. Judge Kaplan has already issued fines in excess of $200,000 per day against Mr. Donziger and this additional measure would not only violate his rights but prevent him from meeting with his clients in Ecuador or in Canada.

The Ecuadorian communities first filed suit in 1993 against Texaco and have continued to live with the contamination since then. In 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Ecuadorians have the right to seek enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgement in Canada. The Ecuadorian plaintiffs thus continue to work to enforce the 2011 Ecuadorian judgment in Canada and demand that Chevron fund a full scale clean-up and pay for health care costs for the affected peoples.

"Judge Kaplan's decision in the RICO case was issued in 2014 and since that time Steven Donziger has made no attempt to flee the country and maintains his residence with his family in New York. There is no risk here, this is simply a move by Judge Kaplan to do Chevron's bidding and attempt to stop Mr. Donziger from continuing to advocate for justice in Ecuador. Kaplan's ruling specifically did not exonerate Chevron for its actions in Ecuador – and substantial evidence, which has not been considered in U.S. courts, has come to light that seriously questions Kaplan's ruling – and yet he is using that RICO decision to allow Chevron to intimidate and harass those who continue to support justice in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Chevron, with Kaplan's help is trying to make an example of Donziger as part of its strategy to escape justice for the worst oil-related environmental crime in history (as the company's own internal emails showing its intent to 'demonize Donziger' in 2009 reveal). The human rights community stands together in defense of Mr. Donziger's right to travel and speak out and continue to advocate for his clients about the injustices of this case."Paul Paz y Miño, Associate Director, Amazon Watch

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