Cites "Grave Danger" In Ecuador over Historic Environmental Lawsuit
7 November 2006 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito - Amnesty International has issued a second "urgent action" bulletin citing "grave danger" in Ecuador for members of a team of lawyers and scientists suing the U.S. corporation Chevron after an attempted robbery of the woman who serves as a press spokesperson for the group.
The urgent action was issued after a group of people tried to break into Guadalupe de Heredia's house after she had conducted a series of press interviews in Ecuador condemning Chevron's environmental policies. The oil major is a defendant in a class-action suit in Ecuador brought by 30,000 persons.
The lawsuit, which started in 2003 and seeks $6 billion in damages, alleges that Chevron's substandard production practices in Ecuador's Amazon region have led to skyrocketing rates of cancer and the near-extinction of five indigenous groups. Chevron admits to dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste in the rainforest over a 28-year period, but claims it is not responsible for clean-up.
This was the third apparent act of intimidation against Ms. de Heredia and the 16th overall against members of the legal team dating back to October 2005. All of the acts have been reported to police, but none have resulted in arrests or apparent progress in determining who is responsible.
The AI bulletin pointed out that the Ecuadorian government has apparently not complied with a December 2005 request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide protection to those involved in the court case against Chevron.
The AI bulletin, issued November 3, said:
"Guadalupe de Heredia was unaware of the attempted break-in, though she was
asleep in her house at the time. According to reports, the following morning a
security guard came to her house and told her that he had seen four men and a
woman arrive at her house in a pick-up truck, and use a ladder to try to climb
the wall. When he asked what they were doing, they told him it was their house.
He fired several shots in the air to scare them off; the intruders fired
several shots at him, and fled. Guadalupe de Heredia later tried to contact the
security guard again, asking neighbours where he was, but he could not be
Guadalupe de Heredia reported the attempted break-in to the Pichincha District
Attorney on 25 October. Amnesty International is not aware that any
investigations ordered by the government into previous attacks and intimidation
have made any progress."