Subject: U.S. court finds TNI links to ExxonMobil

also ExxonMobil in rights abuse case

August 29, 2008

U.S. court finds TNI links to ExxonMobil

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Legal experts and civil society groups welcomed a U.S. Federal court ruling Thursday to proceed with a trial against U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil, which stands accused of supporting the Indonesian military's alleged killings and torture in Aceh.

According to the groups, the decision was a milestone in the country's efforts to protect human rights, serving to expose the number of multinationals regularly paying the Indonesian Military for protection.

Supporters said the decision had created an opportunity for victims in Papua and Kalimantan to seek justice for violence inflicted by the military on behalf of foreign companies.

"It's a very significant ruling. At the very least, multinational mining companies now know they can't evade responsibility when the military personnel they hire commit murder and torture," Rafendi Jamin of the Human Rights Working Group told The Jakarta Post.

In Washington, U.S. Judge Louis Oberdorfer ruled Wednesday the 11 Acehnese plaintiffs had provided "sufficient evidence, at this stage, for their allegations of serious abuse".

Oberdorfer denied a request from Exxon Mobil Corp. and its Indonesian subsidiary, ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia (EMOI), to throw out the lawsuit, but did dismiss the suit against the group's two U.S. affiliates, Mobil Corp. and ExxonMobil Oil Corp.

The suit accuses Exxon Mobil Corporation and its affiliates of "killings and torture committed by military security forces protecting and paid for by EMOI", according to a court document as quoted by AFP.

The lawsuit was filed by the 11 villagers in June 2001 under the Alien Torts Claim Act (ATCA), which enables U.S. courts to try any U.S. company accused of perpetrating human rights abuses outside the country.

EMOI spokeswoman Deva Rachman dismissed all allegations against the company, saying the case was baseless as EMOI condemned all human rights abuses.

"We're just an operator of state facilities. The state, in this case the Indonesian government, has the authority to guard its own strategic assets. All along, we have always communicated everything we do with the government," she told the Post.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said he was unaware of the suit.

"They should just go ahead if they want to sue. It's Exxon that will be sued," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said the government would follow the trial closely, while Presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal declined to comment, saying the case did not involve the Indonesian government.

Legal expert Frans H. Winarta worried the trial risked exposing the current security situation in Indonesia, as it would reveal how foreign companies are sometimes forced to pay the military for protection.


Aug 28, 2008

ExxonMobil in rights abuse case

JAKARTA - THE Indonesian military's links to human rights abuses while helping foreign mining firms are being exposed in a lawsuit by local villagers against US energy giant ExxonMobil, analysts said on Thursday.

A US federal court judge ruled on Wednesday that ExxonMobil had a case to answer in the suit over alleged killings and torture by Indonesian troops protecting the company's gas project in resource-rich Aceh province.

The ruling means the suit filed by 11 anonymous villagers in 2001 should go to trial, turning an unprecedented legal spotlight on arrangements between foreign miners and the army, which has long been linked to rights abuses.

'This decision is acknowledging what is common sense to many - if you are paying government militia to do your dirty work then you are responsible for their conduct,' said Australia-based Mineral Policy Institute director Techa Beaumont.

The case had major implications for Australian and US companies working in sensitive Indonesian areas, such as American firm Freeport's mine in Papua, Mr Beaumont said.

Such operations 'would be advised to reconsider their positions that payment to sections of the Indonesian military linked to extrajudicial killings, murder and torture of Papuan citizens is an acceptable business practice,' Mr Beaumont said.

The suit accuses Exxon Mobil Corporation, two of its US affiliates and its Indonesian subsidiary, ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia (EMOI), of 'killings and torture committed by military security forces protecting and paid for by EMOI,' according to a court document.

The villagers claim that Exxon's Indonesian subsidiary was complicit in torture, rape and at least two murders by soldiers.

Judge Louis Oberdorfer ruled that the plaintiffs had provided 'sufficient evidence, at this stage, for their allegations of serious abuse.'

She rejected Exxon Mobil Corp's and EMOI's request to throw out the lawsuit, but he dismissed the suit against the group's two US affiliates, Mobil Corp and ExxonMobil Oil Corp

Indonesian armed forces chief General Djoko Santoso said on Thursday that he was not aware that the case was before the courts.

'It's impossible. The TNI (military) has never received funds from Exxon,' he told reporters. 'Just go ahead (and sue). The one who will be sued is Exxon, right?'

Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, suffered nearly three decades of conflict before the government signed a peace pact with separatist rebels in 2005.

Australian political scientist Damien Kingsbury, who helped negotiate the Aceh peace deal, described the US court's ruling as 'very significant'.

'It's obviously a significant step toward addressing the human rights agenda in Indonesia and the culpability of the Indonesian military over a long period of time, and its immunity from prosecution,' he told AFP.

'The second thing is that it may have a deterrent effect on investors because a lot of large investors have had a very cosy relationship with the TNI (military) and police in ways that have implicated them in significant crimes.'

ExxonMobil representatives in Indonesia were not available for comment but the company has argued that the lawsuit sets a dangerous precedent for US firms overseas.

A spokeswoman said in 2006 that the villagers' suit 'created the potential for any US company operating overseas to be held vicariously liable for host government actions.'

Analysts said the court's ruling would also have implications for US-based Freeport McMoRan, which has a massive gold and copper concession in restive Papua province, where separatist tensions are simmering.

Mr Freeport, which was unavailable for comment on Thursday, said in its latest annual report that it had paid nine million dollars in 'support costs' to the Indonesian military and police in 2007 to protect its operations. -- AFP

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