By Nick Meynen.
BREAKING NEWS: Julio Prieto, lawyer for 30.000 Ecuadorian victims of Texaco’s environmental liabilities in the Amazon, just filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. This new frontline in probably the most complex legal conflict ever, accuses the top two people in Chevron: John Watson (CEO) and Hewitt Pate (Vice-president) of crimes against humanity. Chevron aquired Texaco in 2000 and has so far managed to avoid the implementation of a final court order that obliges them to pay 9,5 billion US dollars to the victims.
By blaming the top two people in Chevron of crimes against humanity at the ICC, the lawyers are taking a big step: they are making people personally accountable for the lack of justice. Anyone who knows the history of this legal battle understands why they do this. The plaintiffs opened a case in 1993 and after many legal battles, a final decision was taken by the highest Court in Ecuador – the country where Chevron wanted to be judged. Chevron fought a long legal battle in New York demanding to be judged in Ecuador. In the end, Chevron was allowed to have the case moved to Ecuador after it had promised to abide by the court decision. This was a condition of the case being moved out of U.S. federal court to the South American nation. However, despite the final order of the highest court in Ecuador to pay 9,5 billion dollar compensation, implementation is still lacking. Chevron’s dumping in Ecuador has caused the deaths of thousands of people due to cancer. The thousands of surviving victims are trying to enforce the judgement in countries where Chevron has assets. Cases have been opened and are advancing in Brazil, Argentina and Canada. But the army of 2000 legal professionals – yes, two thousand – employed by Chevron has so far managed to prevent any actual implementation of the court order. Since long, Chevron has done everything it can to take the battle outside the court and straight into the lifes of the people defending the victims. Chevron employs spies that follow the lawyers of the Ecuadorians and their families. It pays hackers sabotaging the websites where information on the case is shared. It opens racketeering cases against the lawyers themselves and anyone who funds them. On the other side there are two Ecuadorian lawyers and a few supporting lawyers in other countries that are working on this for years under these enormous pressures. What these Ecuadorian lawyers are now doing now is to turn the tables. John Watson and Hewitt Pate are now faced with a complaint for crimes against humanity at the ICC. Watson and other high-level Chevron executives have promised the affected communities a “lifetime of litigation” and said they would fight the case “until hell freezes over, and then fight it out on the ice.”
Julio Prieto, who we interviewed a day before he submitted the case: “John Watson was in charge of acquiring Texaco for around 20 billion dollar so if Chevron has to pay 9,5 billion dollar from Texaco’s liabilities, he would have done a very bad business deal. I’m pretty sure that he loses his job if any money is paid to the victims. So this one person has a huge personal interest in making sure that justice doesn’t prevail.” When asked why he was doing all this he said: “There is one thing everyone needs to understand; the trial may be over but the suffering is not. We will not be able to clean the jungle with the judgement paper saying that we deserve the 9,5 billion dollar to clean it up.” When we asked if the issue was still stirring the emotions of the victims – even after 21 years of legal battle – Julio made the following comments: “Look, the thousands of people that fight this case don’t feel like ‘hey let’s fight this thing today’ – they live in the Chernobyl of the Amazon. They drink and eat in it. The wont stop crying and they wont stop dying from it.”
A full length interview with Julio Prieto is now available here.
More news on the submission of the complaint is here.
More facts on how Chevron manipulated the case are here.