A federal jury in San Francisco Dec. 1 cleared Chevron Corp. of responsibility in the 1998 shooting of Nigerian villagers by military forces during a protest at an offshore oil platform. Survivors of the incident, under the name “Concerned Ilaje Citizens,” argued that the oil company should be held accountable for paying police and soldiers, and transporting them by helicopter to the oil platform, where they shot and killed two unarmed protesters and wounded two others.
Bert Voorhees, an attorney for the Nigerian villagers, said the plaintiffs will appeal. He said he was disappointed that the legal team supplied by Earth Rights International was not able to convince the jury that Chevron acted improperly when it called in the brutal Nigerian police unit known as the “Kill and Go” squad to break up the protest. The villagers denied taking hostages or committing acts of violence. Chevron was also accused in the case of being liable for torture, assault, battery, negligence, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The case was brought under the 1789 Alien Torts Statute, signed into law by President Washington. In 2005, Unocal settled a similar lawsuit brought by 15 villagers from Burma alleging the company was responsible for forced labor, rapes and a murder committed by soldiers along the route of a natural-gas pipeline. Soon after the settlement, Unocal was acquired by Chevron. (LAT, AFP, Reuters, Dec. 2)