Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bowoto v. Chevron

I recognize that on this historic day most of us are having difficulty thinking about anything outside of the election, but lets give it a try. :)

On May 25, 1998 a group of more than a hundred local Ilaje tribe members boarded a Chevron barge nine miles offshore in the oil-rich Niger Delta, demanding jobs and more environmental responsibility from the multinational. On the fourth day of the protest, with negotiation apparently ongoing, management called in the notorious Nigerian Navy, who arrived in company helicopters. They then opened fire, killing two and injuring others, including Larry Bowoto who was shot multiple times. Along with eighteen other plaintiffs, Bowoto has brought the case to a United States district court in San Francisco, near Chevron headquarters in San Ramon, California. The suit was made possible under the Alient Torts Claims Act (ATCA), passed in 1789, which allows foreign nationals to file charges in the US court system for human rights abuses perpetrated on foreign soil. Recent use of the ATCA has raised the possibility that multinational corporations and other entities that abuse the rights of people in other countries could be held accountable here at home.

Testimony kicked off on Monday, October 27, with starkly contrasting claims coming from plaintiff and defendant. While Chevron insists that the protesters were armed and taking hostages (despite a contradicting message sent to the US embassy by a company official on the third day of the protest), and that they simply notified the authorities of the unrest, the plaintiffs paint a very different story. This should prove to be a landmark precedent-setting case in the struggle to hold corporations accountable for their actions and abuses overseas, vindicating all people's right to justice. The case is being heard by Judge Susan Illston.

More information is available at:

(This is a good blog following the daily arguments)

(This blog focuses Chevron abuses around the world, including the current Bowoto case)

(Founded by Laura Livoti, this organization was a major driving force behind bringing this case to trial)

(Website run by Nigerian human rights activist Sowore Omoyele)

(Democracy Now previously released a documentary entitled Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship – you can read the full transcript online at http://www.democracynow.org/2003/7/11/transcript_of_drilling_and_killing_documentary)

(A very good article summarizing the opening arguments in San Francisco)

Also, Daniel Firger and Andrew Woods are blogging from the courtroom for the Huffington Post. See his updates at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-firger or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-woods


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