Statement Opposing Home Detention of Human Rights Attorney Steven Donziger

November 14th, 2019

We are alarmed and dismayed that a U.S. federal judge has taken extreme and virtually unprecedented steps to restrict the freedom of human rights and environmental defender, Steven Donziger. After Mr. Donziger refused to surrender his computer, cell phone, and passwords to the court for release to Chevron Corporation, his long-time adversary in a historic global environmental litigation and advocacy effort, the judge drafted "criminal contempt" charges against him. After public prosecutors expressly refused to act on the charges, the judge appointed a private attorney to prosecute charges anyway. Mr. Donziger is now being held under home detention. But Mr. Donziger has always explained the ethical reasons he felt he was unable to comply with the turn-over order, and has filed an appeal. He maintains that turning these devices and passwords over would destroy rights and privileges of the Ecuadorian communities affected by horrendous contamination for whom Mr. Donziger has fought for over 25 years.

The basis for confining Mr. Donziger to his New York apartment pending his appeal is that he is supposedly a "flight risk." The Steven Donziger we know has never run from a challenge. He has stuck with his Ecuadorian clients for over 25 years, including through nearly a decade of brutal litigation and personal media attacks. In addition, he has a wife and son in New York, has relinquished his passport, and this week a coalition of 29 distinguished advocates and other individuals offered to co-sign an $800,000 bond on his behalf.

The lack of any reasonable flight risk justification gives the appearance that Steven Donziger has now been imprisoned in his own home for over 100 days due to his vigorous environmental and human rights advocacy against one of the most powerful corporations in the United States. This has serious implications beyond our concerns about Mr. Donziger's rights. It can also send a chilling effect to other lawyers who stand up to bad corporate actors.

With all that is at stake, we urge in the strongest possible terms that Mr. Donziger be allowed his freedom until the resolution of his contempt charges through the appeals process.

Amazon Watch
The Civil Liberties Defense Center
EarthRights International
Global Witness
Greenpeace USA
International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)
National Lawyers Guild
Pachamama Alliance
Rainforest Action Network

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For more information about this letter or background on Chevron's deliberate contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, contact paz@amazonwatch.org.

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