August 5, 2022
US judge dismisses oil and gas giant’s arguments for avoiding trial over alleged human rights abuses in Indonesia.
A United States judge cleared the way for 11 Indonesian villagers to sue ExxonMobil for alleged human rights abuses after finding the majority of the gas and oil giant’s arguments to be “entirely meritless”.
In a searing 85-page opinion, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth concluded that both witness testimony and ExxonMobil’s internal documents would potentially allow a reasonable jury to find that security personnel hired by the firm had abused villagers in Aceh province during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Lamberth said the US multinational’s arguments about Indonesian law and other evidence in the case were repeatedly found to be “wrong” or “simply wrong”.
The reasoning, which was previously under seal, was publicly released on Tuesday after Lamberth last month ruled that the villagers’ lawsuit could go to trial after languishing in the US courts system since 2001.
The villagers allege that they or their loved ones were assaulted, tortured, abused and, in some cases, killed, by Indonesian soldiers who were contracted to ExxonMobil to provide security at the Arun gas field during fighting between separatist fighters and the military.
“We are gratified that the court was moved by the evidence we presented from more than a dozen eyewitnesses and agreed that this important human rights case against ExxonMobil should move forward to trial,” Agnieszka Fryszman, lawyer for the plaintiffs and chair of Cohen Milstein’s Human Rights Practice, said in a statement.
“This case has been up and down to the Supreme Court and tied up in pretrial litigation for over 20 years. This is a big turning point for our clients who have stuck it out for so long in the hopes of obtaining justice. We look forward to presenting our evidence to a jury.”
Read the article on Al Jazeera.