San Francisco, CA — United States District Court Judge Susan Illston issued an order today finding evidence that Chevron covered up its role in human rights abuses in Nigeria, and was involved in paying the brutal Nigerian military during the years of military dictatorship.
Nine Nigerian plaintiffs sued Chevron in federal court in San Francisco in 1999 for deaths and other abuses in two incidents in 1998 and 1999, in which Nigerian military and police using Chevron helicopters and boats shot and tortured protestors and destroyed two villages associated with opposition to Chevron’s oil activities in the desperately poor Niger delta. The judge found that there was evidence that Chevron had assisted its Nigerian subsidiary, known as “CNL,” in these operations, including that Chevron “approved payments from CNL” to the Nigerian security forces and that, “after the attacks, [Chevron] engaged in a media campaign to cover up CNL’s involvement in the attacks.”
The plaintiffs have alleged ten different legal claims against Chevron, ranging from crimes against humanity to wrongful death. While Judge Illston dismissed one of these claims, under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, for technical reasons, she reserved judgment on the remaining claims.
“This decision vindicates the plaintiffs’ claims that Chevron paid Nigerian soldiers, who attacked protestors, and then lied about it,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Judith Brown Chomsky, a cooperating attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). “Chevron, like Unocal before it, will be held to account for its complicity in human rights abuses,” said Marco Simons, U.S. Legal Director for EarthRights International (ERI). In 2005, ERI settled a major case against Unocal for abuses in Burma, and Unocal was then acquired by Chevron.
The case is Bowoto v. Chevron Corp., No. 99-2506. In addition to ERI and CCR, the plaintiffs are represented by several private law firms including Hadsell & Stormer, Traber & Voorhees, and Siegel & Yee; the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Paul Hoffman, Joshua Sondheimer, Michael Sorgen, Robert Newman, Anthony DiCaprio, Elizabeth Guarnieri, and Richard Wiebe.