Eleven Human Rights Groups Call On Ecuador President Alfredo Palacio To Protect Integrity of Case
Chevron CEO O’Reilly Still Silent
Amazon Defense Coalition
21 November 2005 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito - Eleven prominent Ecuadorian human rights organizations are calling on Ecuador President Alfredo Palacio to defend the integrity of the historic environmental lawsuit against Chevron in that country's rainforest after a series of threats and an attempted kidnapping of the 9-year-old daughter of one of the leaders of affected communities.
The lawsuit alleges that Chevron dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic "formation waters" in Ecuador's rainforest, leading to the near-extinction of two indigenous tribes. Experts view the pollution caused by Texaco as the worst in the world, with clean-up expected to cost at least $6 billion.
The demand for protection from Ecuador's president comes a few days after the lawsuit's leaders requested protective measures from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS) following a kidnap attempt on Tuesday, November 15, against the young daughter of Luis Yanza, coordinator of the case against Texaco on behalf of the affected; an anonymous phone call to the lawyer Pablo Fajardo to announce the "cleansing" of the area; and the burglary of the offices of lawyer Alejandro Ponce Villacís, in which only files containing information on the case were taken while cash and other items of value were left alone.
Several days ago another anonymous, threatening phone call was made at 5 a.m. to the home of Ponce Villacís in which a man asked the lawyer's wife: "Is the alarm switched on at your house?"
Chevron executives have denied any connection with the threats and kidnapping, but CEO David O'Reilly has thus far refused calls to clearly disavow any relationship between the company and groups in the Ecuador military being investigated for possible involvement in the threats. Lawyers for Chevron have a villa and office on the military base where the trial leaders believe some or all of the threats originated.
In a letter to President Palacio, the human rights groups are demanding that the government take "the necessary measures to guarantee that the effected may exercise their rights free of any threat, intimidation or risk to their personal, physical safety."
The human rights groups are also asking the government to reveal all contracts and agreements between Chevron and the armed forces, and to investigate the origin of a military intelligence report which led to the suspension of a judicial field inspection of Chevron's contamination on October 19. That military intelligence report, without any factual basis, accuses the Cofán indigenous tribe and other local residents of plotting to kidnap and physically harm representatives of the oil giant.
The base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Franciso Narváez denied any knowledge of the report and said he never would have approved it before Chevron's lawyers presented to the Court without notifying lawyers for the affected communities.
The human rights organizations that signed the letter to President Palacio include:
- The Permanent Human Rights Assembly (APDH)
- The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CDES)
- The "Segundo Montes Mozo S.J." Human Rights Documentation Center
- The Ecuadorian Human Rights Federation (FEDHU)
- The Latin American Human Rights Association (ALDHU)
- The Human Rights Commission of Azuay
- The Inter-American Human Rights, Democracy and Development Program The Citizens'
Meanwhile, the trial continues in Lago Agrio. Last week, the 31st judicial field inspection took place at one of the sites contaminated by Texaco. Until now, levels of toxins in all of the 18 sites reported to the court have violated Ecuadorian norms governing environmental contamination, according to laboratory analyses conducted by Chevron.