Jane Doe 1 was a poor farmer whose great misfortune was that she was living in the path of the project when Unocal — now owned byChevron — and its French and Thai corporate partners began building the pipeline. Their other partner was the Burmese military regime, and the corporations contracted with its army, despite its abhorrent human rights record, to provide security for the project.
The soldiers forced thousands of villagers to provide slave labor for the project. One of those villagers was Jane Doe’s husband. As Jane Doe told me in the camp, the military forced her husband at gunpoint to clear the jungle and carry heavy loads. When he escaped, the soldiers came looking for him. They found Jane Doe instead, nursing her baby near a cooking fire. She told them she didn’t know where her husband was. The soldiers beat her into unconsciousness and kicked her and her baby into the fire. Jane Doe recovered from her injuries; her baby died.
I remember trying to comfort her and thinking: How is it possible that foreign companies can come into Burma, hire a rogue army, make billions of dollars and have no responsibility for what their business partners do? There have been positive changes in Burma recently, but at that time, justice was impossible; the courts served the military. But Unocal was a U.S. company, and I had met American lawyers who believed that U.S. corporations were not above human rights laws.
And so, in 1996, Jane Doe 1 became a lead plaintiff in Doe vs. Unocal, a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, where Unocal had its headquarters. The case was based on the U.S. Alien Tort Statute of 1789, which allows non-U.S. citizens to file lawsuits in the U.S. for violations of international law. Jane Doe’s case was the first to apply that law to corporations accused of liability in human rights violations. In 2005, Unocal agreed to a settlement. The case has provided an underpinning for similar claims against corporations headquartered in the U.S. or doing business in the U.S., and thus it has helped victims of crimes against humanity gain some justice.
For example, in 2007 Yahoo agreed to compensate the families of two Chinese dissidents imprisoned after the Internet company provided their identifying information to the Chinese government, and in 2010 the military contractor Blackwater compensated the families of several Iraqi men allegedly killed by Blackwater guards.
But now, the use of the Alien Tort Statute in cases of alleged corporate liability in human rights cases has come under attack from big business. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The plaintiffs are Nigerians who suffered abuse under a brutal military dictatorship in the mid-1990s; they sued Royal Dutch Petroleum, better known as Shell, over its alleged support of this violence. Shell is arguing that corporations are not responsible for human rights abuses under such circumstances; that individual employees who are complicit in torture, summary executions and other crimes against humanity can be held liable, but not corporations. An appeals court decided that international law, which is considered under the Alien Tort Statute, backed up that claim.
That decision misreads international law, which does not shield corporations from responsibility, and is a major setback for human rights cases based on Doe vs. Unocal. The justices will consider whether the U.S. will become a haven for companies that are allegedly complicit in the most heinous crimes or whether it will continue to provide a legal forum for accountability and justice.
The hardest part of my job is talking to the victims and survivors of human rights abuses. The only thing that I could offer to Jane Doe was hope — hope that the perpetrators, including the corporations that enable and profit from such crimes, would be punished so that future abuses could be deterred; hope that by suing, she could prevent other mothers from losing a child.
In 1996, we didn’t know what the outcome of our case would be. One of my proudest moments was telling Jane Doe that the U.S. courts would hear her case; that a poor woman from Burma would have a fair shot against a powerful American oil company. She and I knew that our lawsuit against Unocal would not bring her baby back. But we also knew that enforcing the law against corporations would mean such abuses might be prevented in the future. Never again, we thought, would a company think it could get away with murder.
The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do is tell her we were wrong.
Ka Hsaw Wa is the cofounder and executive director of EarthRights International, which works for justice for victims of human rights and environmental abuses around the world.
from the la times:
A case before the U.S. Supreme Court may deny victims abroad recourse against corporate-sanctioned abuse.
In what the Pennsylvania governor says will ‘level the playing field for gas exploration’, a controversial bill has been passed, rendering previous zoning laws void. With the new bill hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can take place as close as 90 metres (300ft) from residential houses. This film visits Dallas township where the citizens’ engagement has kept the gas exploration at bay – for now
About 3,000 Malaysians have staged a protest against a refinery for rare earth elements being built by the Australian mining company Lynas over fears of radioactive contamination.
It was the largest rally so far against the £146m plant in eastern Malaysia, and could pose a headache for the government with national elections widely expected this year.
Authorities recently granted Lynas a licence to operate the rare earth plant in Pahang state, the first outside China in years, and it has been the subject of heated protests over health and environmental risks posed by potential leaks of radioactive waste.
Lynas says its plant, which will refine radioactive ore from Australia, has state-of-the-art pollution controls and plans to start operations by June.
Protesters, including opposition MPs, pledged on Sunday to put pressure on the government to scrap the project. Many wore green T-shirts with the words “Stop Lynas” and some shouted “Destroy Lynas” during the two-hour rally in the Pahang state capital, Kuantan.
The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, said his alliance would seek an emergency motion in parliament to urge the government to cancel the project. He also pledged that the opposition would scrap the plant if it won national polls expected by June.
“We don’t want [this project] to sacrifice our culture and the safety of the children,” he told the crowd.
Hi, We are a group of children ages 5-17 who have teamed up with the Williams Community Forest Project to save the forest in the heart of our town from a devastating 320 acre clear-cut. This pristine forest is part of a major corridor for animal migration, and home to numerous endangered and threatened species such as the Red Tree Vole, Pacific Fisher, Mariposa Lily and Northern Spotted Owl. It contains the headwaters for three of our creeks which provide the people and farms of the Williams Valley with some of the cleanest drinking and irrigation water in the nation. Because this land is privately owned, it is within the owners right to clear-cut the trees and spray noxious, cancer causing herbicides afterward which will wash down these creeks.. These are the same creeks which flow through our homes and provide irrigation water to our many organic farms. We play in these creeks in the summer. We have decided to buy this land and turn it into a community forest which will be protected by the Williams Community Forest Project in perpetuity and preserved as a Community Forest to be used by all. It will be managed ecologically and sustainably to support and enrich our local and global forest ecology and community. We have already raised over $150,000 towards the $500,000 we need to secure a million dollar low interest loan and buy the land.
If this campaign is not successful, the consequences are devastating. A clearcut of this magnitude would have a disastrous effect on our local environment and economy. It would affect the entire watershed by destroying important habitat, causing massive erosion, and most likely poisoning our water with herbicides.
With your help, we plan to prevent this clearcut by purchasing this land to secure it’s future for present and future generations. We envision a forest maintained for the benefit of our local ecology and community. This community forest will provide rich educational and recreational opportunities and serve as a model for sustainable forest management.
What We Need & What You Get
The owner could begin logging as soon as March 1. He has already initiated road building in preparation for this clearcut. We need to raise $500,000 before this date. We have already raised $150,000. That means we need to raise $350,000 more dollars. We are pursuing many avenues of funding including several grants, a concert, and a fund raising dinner. Please help us save this pristine forest. Any level of donation helps us toward our goal! Any donation over $250 receives a tax deductible receipt from the Williams Community Forest Project.
Other Ways You Can Help
Indigenous leaders from Ecuador’s Amazonian lowlands are calling for the government to drop plans to auction 21 leases near the Peruvian border for oil drilling.
After a two-day meeting on February 7 and 8, the leaders delivered a statement to the Ministry of Hydrocarbons office in the town of Puyo, demanding a permanent moratorium on drilling in the region, “out of respect for our world view, our collective rights and the rights of nature.”
The leases overlap all or part of territories of the Achuar, Kichwa, Shiwiar, Shuar, Sapara, Huito and Waorani people, according to Pepe Acacho, vice president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE, for its Spanish initials).
The resolution opposing the auction of the oil leases was signed by leaders of those groups, as well as CONAIE and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuadorian Amazonia (CONFENAIE), an umbrella organization of lowland indigenous groups.
“We don’t agree” with the planned tender of the 21 leases, Acacho said in a telephone interview. “We have said that the oil should stay in the ground. We want the government to promote other development alternatives that respect nature and people.”
There is a long history of tension between the Ecuadorian government and indigenous groups over oil drilling in the Amazon. Residents of the northeastern region have been locked in a two-decade lawsuit over pollution caused by Texaco in the 1960s and 1970s. In the past, companies that have tried to explore several of the leases slated for auction have met strong resistance.
The leases are just south of the Ishipingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field, which overlaps the highly biodiverse Yasuní National Park and an area inhabited by the Tagaeri and Taromenane, semi-nomadic tribes that shun contact with the outside world. Under pressure from indigenous and environmental groups, President Rafael Correa agreed to prohibit drilling in that area if international donors contribute $3.6 billion over 12 years to compensate the country for lost revenue.
That agreement may be stoking pressure to open new areas for drilling in Ecuador, which receives about half its export earnings and one-third of its tax revenues from oil. In addition, the government has signed loan agreements with China, which include commitments to provide oil. Those deals amount to about 4.5 million barrels a month, according to Kevin Koenig, Ecuador program coordinator for the non-profit organization Amazon Watch.
What began with villagers at Ojo de Agua in Chiriquí province using trees and rocks to block the Pan-American highway earlier this month – trapping hundreds of lorries and busloads of tourists coming over the border from Costa Rica for six days – has now placed Panama at the forefront of the enduring and often violent clash between indigenous peoples and global demand for land, minerals and energy. Carrera is emerging as a pivotal figure in the conflict.
“Look how they treat us. What do we have to defend ourselves? We don’t have anything; we have only words,” Carrera protests. “We are defenceless. We don’t have weapons. We were attacked and it wasn’t just by land but by air too. Everything they do to us, to our land, to our companions who will not come back to life, hurts us.”
At the height of the protests, thousands of Ngäbe-Buglé came down from the hills to block the highway; in El Volcán and San Félix they briefly routed police and set fire to a police station. In Panama City, students and unions joined with indigenous protesters marching almost daily on the residence of President Ricardo Martinelli. Some daubed walls near the presidential palace with the words “Martinelli assassin”.
Carrera pulls from her satchel a hastily drawn-up agreement brokered by the Catholic church that obliges the Panamanian national assembly to discuss the issue. It did not guarantee that the projects would be halted. Neither she nor the Ngäbe-Buglé people expressed optimism that the government would keep its word on the mining issue.
“The village doesn’t believe it,” she says, “and it wouldn’t be the first time that the government threw around lies. They do not listen to the village. There was a similar massacre in 2010 and 2011, when there were deaths and injuries. Some were blinded, some of our companions lost limbs.” A cry goes up: “No to the miners! No to the hydroelectric!”
Two videos obtained by the Observer offer fresh proof of official involvement in “human safaris” to see the protected Jarawa tribe of the Andaman Islands.
A three minutes and 19 seconds clip, shot on a mobile phone, shows half-naked girls from the tribe dancing for a seated Indian police officer. A second, shorter clip again focuses on a girl’s nudity, while men in military uniform mill around.
The new evidence comes as authorities in Orissa state set an example to their counterparts in the Andamans by moving swiftly to end human safaris to see the Bonda tribe, another abuse revealed by an Observer investigation.
The Indian government had ordered both sets of officials to take swift action to investigate and prevent abuse. In an interview last week, tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo said exploitation by outsiders had to be stopped.
A preliminary report quickly commissioned by the Orissa government concluded that the Bonda needed greater protection. Officials suggested that tourists would in future be banned from photographing the tribe and all cameras would have to be deposited with officials before they could enter the area. Two tour operators have already been charged with selling tribal tours “in an obscene manner”.
Police in the Andamans have repeatedly denied any involvement in human safaris after an Observer investigation last month found evidence that officers had accepted bribes to allow tourists to meet and film the Jarawa. A video of young Jarawa women being ordered to dance in return for food caused outrage in India and around the world.
In 1995, President Alberto Fujimori announced to Congress the beginning of a National Family Planning program, which aimed to improve the reproductive health of people.
At first some feminist organizations believe in the president’s initiative, since this program was counter to the conservative tendencies of the Catholic Church and would allow all women access to different contraceptive methods.However, three years later, newspaper articles began to appear of the first cases of what appeared to be not a family planning program, but forced sterilization campaigns and women, victims of these methods began to speak.
Fujimori-era forced sterilization in Peru film spotlight
Widespread forced sterilizations during the government of Peru’s former president Alberto Fujimori, supposedly in the name of progress, are at the center of an explosive new documentary out this week.
“They tied me up, and they cut me here,” said an emotional Micaela Flores, pointing to her belly, in the film “Paulina’s scar” by Manuel Legarda.
She was one of thousands of women who were subject to forced sterilization during his second term in office which began in 1996.
In 1996, Fujimori’s government started a reproductive health and family planning program that included tubal ligation operations that were supposed to be voluntary. Fujimori was convinced this would bring down the birth rate and help economic development.
But in time, reports started emerging that many authorities were skipping the consent part and forcing women to undergo sterilization — especially poor, rural, less educated and disproportionately indigenous Andean women.
Many women were threatened, tricked into undergoing the surgery and sometimes offered food in exchange for permanent sterilization. And some authorities were carrying out sterilizations in unclean, substandard conditions, victims charge.
According to official data 300,000 women underwent surgery under the program. More than 2,000 have filed official complaints and 18 died during or after the procedures.
“The doctors would go to people’s homes and tell women that they had to use birth control, that the president was going to take care of them, give them a monthly food subsidy, or pay for their education. If they said no, they were threatened and sometimes even kidnapped,” said Andean parliament lawmaker Hilaria Supa, one of those interviewed for the documentary.
“In Mollepata (southeastern Peru) doctors tied up ten women in a local medical clinic in a slum and would not let them leave until they had undergone the procedure,” said Supa, who noted that the family planning program had the financial backing “of the World Bank, United States and Japan.”
Aboriginal leaders in South Australia’s far north have rejected claims by explorer Argonaut Resources that the state’s Aboriginal Heritage Act is anti-mining.
In 2010, the Government granted Argonaut a licence to explore 6300 hectares of land near Lake Torrens in a joint venture with Straits Resources.
Traditional Owners appealed against that decision, taking their case to the South Australian Supreme Court.
Their appeal was upheld, prompting Argonaut to claim the Act gives too much power to Traditional Owners to veto mining.
Argonaut Resources director Lindsay Owler says lawyers for Traditional Owners targeted his company’s project as a way of testing the law.
He says the Act should be changed because of the potential for mischievous use.
“It is something we’d absolutely like to see amended for the benefit of the mining industry in particular,” he said.
“It’s something that we know that certain members of the State Government are alive to and there have been- we understand- there have been moves already during 2011 to amend this section of the Act but they didn’t get through Cabinet.”
A member of the Kokatha-Uwankara Native Title claim group that covers the area around Lake Torrens says the company has not respected local Indigenous cultural concerns.
University of Adelaide Professor Roger Thomas says the group launched its appeal after the company attempted to bypass a section of the Act.
“We went to the negotiation table in good faith,” he said.
“We have always maintained the position with Lake Torrens that it is a sight of significance and they’re not the first we’ve said no test drilling on the lake’s surface.
“We made it very clear all the way through that Lake Torrens, the surface of Lake Torrens and certainly the shorelines… is of significant cultural importance to us and that we would not support or agree to any mining company doing any test drilling.
“They haven’t got their way, they’ve lost the appeal and they’re now trying to put some kind of blame on the Aboriginal community and the Native Title applicants. We acted in a manner that was protecting our cultural rights.”
“Columbus was a wétiko. He was mentally ill or insane, the carrier of a terribly contagious psychological disease, the wétiko psychosis. The Native people he described were sane people with a healthy state of mind. Sanity or healthy normality among humans and other living creatures involves a respect for other forms of life and other individuals. I believe that is the way people have lived (and should live). The wétiko psychosis, and the problems it creates, have inspired many resistance movements and efforts at reform or revolution. Unfortunately, most of these efforts have failed because they have never diagnosed the wétiko as an insane person whose disease is extremely contagious.”
—Jack D. Forbes,
Celebrated American Indian thinker Jack D. Forbes’s Columbus and Other Cannibals was one of the founding texts of the anticivilization movement when it was first published in 1978. His history of terrorism, genocide, and ecocide told from a Native American point of view has inspired America’s
most influential activists for decades. Frighteningly, his radical critique of the modern “civilized” lifestyle is more relevant now than ever before.
Identifying the Western compulsion to consume the earth as a sickness, Forbes writes:
“Brutality knows no boundaries. Greed knows no limits. Perversion knows no borders. . . . These characteristics all push towards an extreme, always moving forward once the initial infection sets in. . . . This is the disease of the consuming of other creatures’ lives and possessions. I call it cannibalism.”