Did ExxonMobil Pay Torturers?
The oil giant has long said it has no responsibility for atrocities committed by the government soldiers it hired to protect its plant in Indonesia. Now the issue could be headed to the Supreme Court.
Even in the dry legalese of a court complaint, the account of John Doe III is not for the faint of heart:
In the summer of 2000, soldiers detained him while he was visiting a refugee camp. They shot him “in three places on his leg,” then “tortured him for several hours.” The soldiers “broke his kneecap, smashed his skull, and burned him with cigarettes.” After he was taken to a hospital to treat his wounds, he was returned to this captors, who held him for roughly a month and “tortured him regularly.”
This was the Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, at the height of a bloody civil war. Such accounts were commonplace. But in this case, according to the complaint, the man’s captors were not just any soldiers. They were “ExxonMobil security personnel.” And now, more than a decade later, ExxonMobil has been ordered to stand trial in a human rights lawsuit.
In June 2001, John Doe III and 10 other civilian neighbors of ExxonMobil’s Arun natural gas facility filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil in federal district court in Washington, DC. In John Doe v. ExxonMobil, (PDF) the villagers charge the company with complicity in torture, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by Indonesian soldiers it hired to provide security.
ExxonMobil has steadfastly maintained its innocence in the case.
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