The defence of the rights of the sea as an integral part of Mother Earth is being pursued in Ecuador using the Rights of Nature recognised in 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution. This epic action is against the oil company BP that is responsible for the massive environmental disaster inflicted on the Gulf of Mexico starting from 20 April 2010.
A collective nine plaintiffs from five countries presented the suit initially in the Constitutional Court of Ecuador in November 2010.
The 26th of July, it was admitted as suit No. No. 0523-2012 under the Juzgado segundo de Pichincha.
A major hurdle towards holding the oil company BP accountable for the assault on the Gulf of Mexico, with its clear global implications and impacts has been crossed by the acceptance of the Second Labour Court Of Pichincha, Quito on Thursday 26 July 2012 to proceed with the case. The court ruled that it has the competence to try the case and accordingly issued summons dated 26 July 2012 to Messrs Nathan Block and John L. Gilbert, representatives of the BP to appear in court for a public hearing on 3 August 2012. Esperanza Martinez of Oilwatch International/Accion Ecologica will represent the plaintiffs at this court in the epochal hearing for the defence of Mother Earth.
Before issuing the summons the Second Labour Court agreed that the suit as filed was “complete and fulfils all other legal requirements, the procedure established in Article 86 number 2 and Articles 71, 72, 75 and 88 of the Constitution, as well as Article 7 of the Organic Law on Jurisdictional Guarantees and Constitutional Oversight. The Ecuadorian legal procedure requires that Second Labour Court should handle the case as a court of first instance.
Defenceless persons, including Mother Earth, have a right for constitutional protection under Article 88 of the Ecuadorean Constitution that establishes “Protection proceedings shall be aimed at ensuring the direct and efficient safeguard of the rights enshrined in the Constitution and can be filed whenever there is a breach of constitutional rights as a result of deeds or omissions by any non-judiciary public authority against public policies when they involve removing the enjoyment or exercise of constitutional rights; and when the violation proceeds from a particular person, if the violation of the right causes severe damage, if it provides improper public services, if it acts by delegation or concession, or if the affected person is in a status of subordination, defencelessness or discrimination.”
In the suit the plaintiffs demand, among other things, actions on release of information, restoration, compensation and a guarantee of non-recurrence. With regard to compensation, the demands are that “British Petroleum be ordered to commit to leaving untapped an equivalent amount of oil to the oil spilled in the Gulf”. Secondly, that “British Petroleum be ordered to redirect investment earmarked for further exploration towards strategies aimed a leaving oil underground as a more effective mechanism for compensating nature for the current impact on its climate cycles due to oil production.”
With the scramble for fossil fuels and penetration into more fragile ecosystems the threat to Mother Earth and the survival of humanity and all beings dependent on her has never been more serious. A public hearing on this case is an important step towards ensuring that the planet is preserved and that rights are respected. This is a truly universal struggle.
As Alberto Acosta said soon after the suit was filed, “It is important we understand there’s only one Pachamama [mother earth], rather than one in the north and one in the south and that is why we have to join forces, to make the great changes that we want and make a new civilization. A civilization that isn’t focused on the concentration of capital, in predatory individualism, but rather a civilization that reclaims life itself, that reclaims collective responsibility, and that reclaims a new way of life in harmony with nature.”