Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why Canadian Courts Care about Justice in Ecuador

Reposted from Huffington Post.

Marta Isabel Arrobo, 49, recalls the numerous health problems she and her family have encountered living in close proximity to several pits of the Sur-Oeste Station. Photo credit: Amazon Watch
Marta Isabel Arrobo, 49, recalls the numerous health problems she and her family have encountered living in close proximity to several pits of the Sur-Oeste Station. Photo credit: Amazon Watch

Jay Cameron asks some important questions in his deeply flawed pro-Chevron opinion piece about one of the biggest environmental crimes in history. We think he deserves some answers, but despite repeated requests the Financial Post declined to even respond to our requests to publish this response. Fortunately, here we can provide the answers to Cameron's questions, but some basic facts about the case that Cameron gets wrong must be corrected first.

First, the title of the piece itself is false, since U.S. courts didn't "originally rule" in the Chevron case. In 2011, after almost two decades of legal wrangling and based on thousands of scientific samples – most of which were provided by Chevron itself – an Ecuadorian court ruled Chevron liable for the amount of US $18 billion to pay for environmental cleanup, health care costs and punitive damages for the crimeadmitted to by Chevron – of deliberately dumping over 18 billion gallons of toxic oil drilling water into the once pristine Amazon rainforest, home to 30,000 inhabitants. This trial took place in the venue of Chevron's choice: Ecuador. The "original ruling" on that decision was the Ecuadorian appeals court and later its Supreme Court, which eliminated the punitive damages on constitutional grounds and halved the judgement to US $9.5 billion. Those courts dismissed Chevron's fraud claims after considering the "evidence." Furthermore, the civil suit brought against Chevron was perfectly legal in Ecuador since the "release" given by a prior Ecuadorian administration specifically did not protect Chevron from civil claims, a fact that Chevron itself did not dispute when it argued that Ecuador was the proper venue for this case.

Mr. Cameron refers to "court-tested proof" of fraud in Chevron's retaliatory U.S. suit filed after the Ecuadorian verdict. That is false. In fact, it might interest Mr. Cameron to know that not a single piece of evidence about the actual contamination was even permitted in that trial. Cameron also omits the fact that Chevron's fraud claims were based almost wholly on the testimony of a corrupt ex-judge who later admitted, during another Chevron forum-shopping legal case, that he lied about the alleged bribe. Worse yet, the actual "proof" – the forensic evidence about the authorship of the original Ecuadorian judgment – was not considered by the US court, despite the fact that it validates the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' claims that the judgement was not ghost-written. The Canadian courts, however, were made aware of these facts. They also know about the leaked Chevron videos showing their own technicians finding toxic contamination at former well site Chevron swore to have completely remediated (more evidence that Kaplan refused to allow in his court despite Chevron's lawyers having authenticated them).

Ultimately, the courts in Canada have seen through Chevron's attempt to abuse the legal system with its might and fabricate false stories to escape justice for a crime that still festers in 1,000 unlined open-air pits like scars across the Amazon. Those same courts also realize that Ecuadorians are still dying today from contamination from those pits. They will offer Chevron a chance to explain itself in a trial and Chevron is perfectly welcome to put its key witness on the stand. But will they risk it, since he has already admitted to having lied for them in exchange for a multi-million dollar payoff?

To answer Mr. Cameron's question, the reason the Canadian courts considered the valid claims of the 30,000 Ecuadorian victims of one of the worst corporate crimes in history is because they realize that facts and justice do, in fact, matter.

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