Thursday, December 7, 2023

Exxonmobil settles a landmark case lawsuit by Aceh villagers

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Journalist IBP


Mahinda Arkyasa



Villagers in Aceh sued ExxonMobil for gross human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military 22 years ago.

Both sides decides to settle the issue

ExxonMobil settled the long-running lawsuit filed by locals in Aceh, Indonesia, accusing the hired Indonesian military of human rights abuses during security operations at the Arun gas field and pipeline.

After more than 22 years, both sides reached an agreement to settle the issue, but they did not disclose the terms.

The settlement occurred the week before the scheduled start of a jury trial in the US on May 24, 2023. 

On May 15, eleven Indonesian citizens represented by Cohen Milstein settled their lawsuit with Exxonmobil through a confidential resolution that brought an end to two decades of litigation.

Exxonmobil responds with their condolences and sympathy to those affected, but stated Exxonmobil employees never hurt the villagers.

“ExxonMobil condemns human rights violations in any form, those include the actions asserted in this case against the Indonesian military,” said Todd Spitler, ExxonMobil spokesperson.

“We express our deepest sympathy to the families and the people who were involved,” Spitler added. 

Attorney: the company’s arguments were baseless

ExxonMobil consistently denied the human rights allegations as baseless accusations and made nine attempts to refute, employing three major law firms and employing various tactics to thwart the lawsuit.

The District of Columbia Court said in August 2022, that Exxon stated that there was insufficient evidence linking soldiers to Exxon in what happened.

However, the Attorney stated that most of the company’s arguments were baseless at all.

“Exxon and its lawyers did everything they could, but they [the plaintiffs] managed to overcome it all. This is testament not only to their persistence, but also to the justice for their cause,” said Michel Paradis, human rights law expert and adviser to the Ministry of Defense. US.

Villagers will testify again on June

The villagers assisted by the human rights unit of law firm Cohen Milstein and attorney Agnieszka Fryszman.

“Our clients … took on one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the world and stuck with the fight for more than twenty years,” said Agnieszka Fryszman, an attorney at Cohen Milstein.

In early June, they will be travelling to Washington DC to testify, and have already prepared a tape for the court.

“We are so pleased that now, on the eve of trial, we were able to secure a measure of justice for them and their families,” adds Fryszman.

“Having brought this lawsuit in the face of grave threats to themselves and their fellow villagers,” said Cohen Milstein.

The legal process lasted 22 years

In 2001, Terry Collingsworth, Owner of International Rights Advocates, filed this case due to villagers seeking accountability for the past 20 years.

ExxonMobil eventually provided unspecified financial compensation to 11 villagers with identities withheld, who experienced violence near the Arun Gas Field during the 1999-2003 period.

In 2001, 5,500 troops deployed, with 1,000 guarding ExxonMobil, accounting for 20% of the total. Residents accuse the army of using its authority to commit violations against them.

Indonesian soldiers, paid up to IDR 7.3 billion per month, perpetrated serious violations, including killings, torture, sexual violence, and kidnappings.

In the late 1990s, the oil fields generated an annual revenue of US$ 1 billion, while previously this facility accounted for 25% of the company’s oil and gas revenues.

ExxonMobil, with its enormous wealth, holds a strong position to influence government decisions in the countries of its operation back in the day.

In addition, to revive business confidence in Indonesia and reduce government financial losses.

“ExxonMobil and the United States government itself [embassy] are well aware of this situation. Even so, they still do not issue a public statement on this issue,” said Radhi Darmansyah, an Acehnese student activist.

Journalist IBP


Mahinda Arkyasa




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