Ecuador Court Rejects Latest Chevron Attempt to Block Enforcement of $18 Billion Judgment
QUITO, Ecuador -- With its options dwindling and the mistakes of its legal team mounting, Chevron has suffered another courtroom setback in its eleventh-hour attempt to block indigenous rainforest communities from enforcing their $18 billion judgment against the oil giant´s assets around the world.
three-judge appellate panel in Ecuador on Friday ruled that a Chevron
request for a special bond waiver had no basis in Ecuadorian law, thereby
paving the way for the commencement of enforcement actions. Chevron has
stripped its assets from Ecuador, forcing the
rainforest communities to consider standard judgment collection lawsuits
against the oil giant in other countries.
intend to do everything in our power to ensure Chevron's management team meets
the company's legal obligations and pays the full amount of the judgment,"
said Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the 30,000
Ecuadorians who initiated the lawsuit against the oil giant in U.S. federal
court in 1993.
broke the rainforest of Ecuador," said
Fajardo. "Now it must fix it."
judgment against Chevron was affirmed by the same Ecuador
appellate panel in early January, the oil giant was obligated to request the
bond pending an extraordinary final appeal to the nation's highest court.
Payment of such a bond was the only way under Ecuadorian law to temporarily
suspend enforcement of the judgment, but Chevron's legal team blundered by
never asking for it, said Fajardo.
requesting the bond -- which easily could have been paid given Chevron's annual
revenues of $240 billion -- Chevron requested an
unprecedented waiver of the bond requirement. After Chevron sought the
waiver, the rainforest communities charged the oil giant was seeking
"special treatment" not available to any other litigant in Ecuador.
in a four-page decision, said seeking a bond "is the only established
legal mechanism to give litigants in Ecuador the
opportunity to suspend execution of a judgment." In reference to
Chevron, it added: "The losing party decided not to exercise this
the court rejected an "order" issued Thursday from a private
investment arbitration that Ecuador's government
freeze the 18-year litigation until it can rule on a separate set of Chevron
claims that it the court system in Ecuador
treated it unfairly. See here.
The private investment panel has been harshly criticized by jurists for
violating international law, and the rainforest communities have said its
actions have no bearing on their claims given they are not a party to the
proceedings. See here
detailed analysis of the international law obligations of Ecuador's government, the appellate panel said the
Inter-American Convention of Human Rights and Ecuador's
Constitution trumped any authority from the investment panel, which was
convened by Chevron under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty.
The rainforest communities recently filed a petition
with a noted human rights court to block any order from the secret arbitral
panel, whose members -- all private lawyers -- stand to reap millions of
dollars of fees for simply granting jurisdiction over the case.
part of this Convention can be interpreted to permit any person (such as
Chevron or the Arbitral Panel) to interfere with the enjoyment and exercise of
rights and liberties recognized in the Convention, nor can it override other
rights and guarantees that are inherent in the rights of all men," the
panel wrote in its decision.
also ruled that international law to protect investors can never override
international treaties that protect fundamental human rights of individuals,
including the right to life and the right to seek legal redress, both of which
are being exercised by the rainforest communities.
simple arbitral award … cannot obligate judges to do violence to the human
rights of the citizens of the country where it sits," said the panel.
representative of the rainforest communities was pleased with the decision,
which she said protects the independence of Ecuador's
courts and ensures that a private investor treaty cannot trump the fundamental
human rights of ordinary citizens. The trial was held in Ecuador only after Chevron moved it there from U.S.
federal court, promising to abide by any adverse judgment.
"The Ecuador appellate panel spoke in a way that is
consistent with both Ecuador's laws and the
country's international treaty obligations," said Karen
Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the rainforest communities.
"It shows that Ecuador's independent courts
will not succumb to Chevron's political pressure nor its request for special
18 years of dealing with Chevron's bad faith and abusive litigation tactics,
the rainforest communities have a final and enforceable judgment," she
The Ecuador appellate court did grant Chevron's request
for an extraordinary appeal to the National Court of Justice, a process that
likely will take one to two years to conclude.
appellate ruling comes at a time when Chevron officials are furiously trying to
cut a side deal with Ecuador's government to
illegally quash the environmental case, said Fajardo. The company
apparently offered $1
billion to the government to end-run the legal process, an act that could
expose Chevron to criminal liability under various anti-bribery statutes in the United States and other countries, he added.
The Ecuador trial court in February
2011 found overwhelming scientific evidence that Chevron deliberately
dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways when it
operated in Ecuador under the Texaco brand from
1964 to 1992. The dumping decimated indigenous groups and caused an
outbreak of cancer that could lead to thousands of deaths in the coming years,
according to evidence before the court. See here
that tells the story of the environmental disaster and of Chevron's fraudulent
cover-up can be seen here.
of damages set by the Ecuador court is modest
compared to the potential liability of BP in the much smaller Deepwater Horizon
disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, said
Hinton. BP already has committed $20 billion
in compensation for the Gulf spill, an amount that does not include an
estimated $60 to $80 billion in additional
liability from civil lawsuits now pending in U.S. federal courts.
Amazon Defense Coalition
Published by: Magne Ove Varsi