DAVOS (SWITZERLAND) – Friends of the Earth International and EarthRights International today exposed the efforts of leading World Economic Forum (WEF) multinationals in avoiding accountability for human rights violations.
Unocal, Shell and ChevronTexaco, all WEF member companies, are presently facing accusations in U.S. courts of complicity in human rights violations in cases brought by affected communities from India, Nigeria and Burma. The multinationals lobby groups have launched a behind-the-scenes effort targeting the Bush administration and U.S. Congress to ensure victims do not get their day in court. The multinationals are working to weaken the law through their lobby groups, the International Chamber of Commerce and National Foreign Trade Council.
Presently, extreme cases of violations being brought under what is known as the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) face a long haul through the U.S. courts.  Although such cases are not easy to bring, the law represents one of the few ways to hold companies accountable for their role in violating the rights of communities where they operate. Corporate accountability has become a major issue on the world stage following campaigning from environmental and human rights advocacy groups and is a theme inside the WEF this year. The actions of the multinationals through their lobby groups (the ICC is also present at Davos) aim to remove the right of non-U.S. citizens to seek redress for any torture, extrajudicial killing, forced labour, and genocide aided or committed by U.S. corporations.
Kenny Bruno, Campaigns Coordinator of EarthRights International, said: “How hypocritical of these companies to be promoting responsibility while working to avoid consequences for their actions.”
Matt Phillips, corporates campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The WEF theme this year is ‘building trust’. If multinationals are so trustworthy, why are they worried about accountability laws? Governments must resist corporate lobbying and introduce clear rights for communities to secure justice in the face of multinational wrongs.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Matt Phillips +44 7817 314 706
Kenny Bruno +41 79 673 1240 (through Jan. 27) or +1 718 832-5434 (after Jan. 27)
Friends of the Earth International and Earthrights International
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
 For more information see www.earthrights.org . In Doe v. Unocal, Burmese villagers sued the California-based energy giant for its direct complicity in abuses committed by the notorious Burmese military, Unocal’s partner ina natural gas pipeli ne joint venture. In September of 2002, a federal appeals court held that the plaintiffs had presented evidence that Unocal knowingly provided substantial assistance to the military in its commission of forced labour, murder and rape, while the military secured the project and built project infrastructure. Accordingly, the court held that Unocal could be held liable for aiding and abetting the military’s abuses.
In a similar ATCA case, Nigerian plaintiffs are suing ChevronTexaco for its
complicity in the brutal Nigerian military’s gross human rights abuses associated with ChevronTexaco’s oil production activities in the Niger Delta. The case is based on two incidents: the shooting of peaceful protestors at ChevronTexaco’s Parabe offshore platform by soldiers flown in by ChevronTexaco, and the destruction of two villages by soldiers in ChevronTexaco helicopters and boats.
In these cases, courts applying well-established norms of international law dating back to Nuremburg have found that multinational corporations can be held liable under the ATCA for their direct complicity in international human rights abuses.