Eye on the Amazon

What Do You Get When You Beat Chevron in Court? 500 Days of Home Detention

"As my physical world has shrunk, the online world has expanded by multiples of thousands. And once I get through this, I have no doubt that Chevron will be paying this judgment such that thousands of Indigenous people and rural communities will have a clean environment and thousands of lives will be saved. That's what this is ultimately about."Steven Donziger

What do you get when you beat Chevron in court? 500 days of home detention.

Chevron has once again failed to greenwash its dirty reputation. This year, it even went as far as attempting to deny history claiming its "human rights policy reflects the expectations we have of our employees, suppliers, and business partners to respect human rights." The corporate behemoth's attempts to clean-up its image are just motivating climate activists to swarm social media and call out the company for its pollution and numerous rights violations.

Nonetheless, Chevron uses its power and money to quell dissent and crush anyone in its path, especially those threatening to hold it accountable. One of Chevron's most prominent targets is human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. Donziger was the lead U.S. lawyer when Chevron was found liable for deliberately dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into the Ecuadorian rainforest that caused a massive public health catastrophe and humanitarian crisis. The Indigenous peoples and campesinos of the Ecuadorian Amazon took on the oil giant and – against all odds – won.

Instead of addressing the crisis it caused, the company fled Ecuador and launched a new legal battle to bury the case in litigation. It also mounted a public relations and legal campaign intending to "demonize Donziger." This strategy is a distraction. Chevron is publicly destroying a respected human rights lawyer's life in an attempt to keep its deliberate pollution and Indigenous rights violations in the shadows.

On Friday, December 18th, Steven Donziger passed 500 days of home detention for refusing to turn over his computer, phone, and passwords to a federal judge to give to Chevron. Donziger is a perfect example of the lengths to which the fossil fuel industry will go to deny communities justice, and his case exposes the power Chevron wields within U.S. government institutions. But we continue mobilizing, bringing to light its persistent attempts to evade responsibility and deny justice to the Ecuadorians affected.

As civil rights attorney Ron Kuby stated at the rally on Friday, "There has never been a misdemeanor defendant in the entire history of American misdemeanors who has been held in home confinement for even as much as a day, let alone 500 days! The effect is to incapacitate Steven, to impoverish Steven, to punish Steven, and most importantly, to prevent Steven from engaging in the legal and political work he needs to engage in to enforce the Chevron judgment around the world where it can be enforced."

You can learn the backstory on how Donziger's home confinement began and the outrageous violation of legal standards by judges Kaplan and Preska from the advocates mobilizing to secure justice for Ecuadorians on this season of the award-winning podcast "Drilled." Amy Westervelt, Emily Gertz, and their team dedicated ten episodes to Chevron's corruption. They produced a riveting "true crime" story of not only Texaco's horrific crimes in the Amazon but an expert breakdown of Chevron's attempts to pull off what could be the most well-funded corporate retaliatory scheme in history. This season is for anyone who cares about climate justice and challenging the fossil fuel industry.

Drilled podcast

Any Amazon Watch supporter knows that justice has been denied to the people from the Ecuadorian Amazon for decades. Yet today, there is more attention to it than there has been in years. Why? Because so much is at stake for the future of the Amazon and our climate. Chevron, their lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and judges Kaplan and Preska have overstepped to such extremes that the world is taking notice once again. The movement against Chevron has gained many new allies and is recognized as a frontline battle for climate justice. On Friday, members of Our Revolution and Movement for a People's Party joined the #500Days action because they recognize the threats to Donziger's freedom are a threat to our society. Together, we renew the call for immediate Congressional action.

Up to now, Congress has failed to intervene even as the European Parliament has directly requested they do so. A renewed call to Rep. Jerry Nadler, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and Donziger's representative, has been launched by Our Revolution. Tens of thousands of people have already written to Congress.

Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, and Global Witness will soon send a renewed appeal to the Department of Justice to intervene. The Department of Justice will also have a new Attorney General at the helm. We expect that person to approve a review of the undemocratic process that allowed Judge Kaplan to appoint a corporate law firm (with direct ties to Chevron and paid with U.S tax dollars) to act in place of the federal prosecutor (who twice declined to take the case).

Donziger's trial date is set for January 19th, despite the pandemic. Amazon Watch will continue to organize so the world can bear witness to this ongoing injustice and rally as much support as possible to bring about proper oversight of Chevron's judicial corruption. Every step brings new allies who will push for Chevron to finally pay to clean up its admitted toxic waste in the Amazon.

In the meantime, we demand the U.S. government #FreeDonzigerNow!

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