Charges of Rape and Murder Prompt Disappearance of Entire Country from Corporate Website
Amazon Defense Coalition
29 October 2008 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
San Francisco, CA – Chevron has quietly removed from its website any reference to its operations in Burma, a country where the oil giant has been implicated in allegations of rape and murder connected to a lucrative pipeline project that generates up to $1 billion annually for the country's brutal military regime, the Amazon Defense Coalition said today.
"The Human Cost of Energy: Chevron's Continuing Role in Financing Oppression and Profiting From Human Rights Abuse in Military-Ruled Burma (Myanmar)" The company has replaced the majority of substantive information on its website with a short page glossing over their role in the country.
Chevron removed the references to Burma while it has been embroiled in high-stakes legal case charging it helped orchestrate the deaths of two Nigerian villagers protesting Chevron's operational practices in the African country. The trial on those charges began Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco. Earth Rights International, a legal organization based in Washington, D.C., has leveled withering criticism at Chevron for jointly operating a natural gas pipeline with the Burmese military. Just in the last year, the Burmese army has violently suppressed protesting monks and diverted international relief aid after a devastating hurricane, and the country's government is considered an international pariah.
The pipeline generates an estimated $1 billion per year in hard currency for the clique of generals who rule Burma. Chevron has defended the project on the grounds it exercises a liberalizing influence on the country's government.
Just two years ago, Chevron's Burmese operations were featured prominently on the company's website. This week, one could not find a single reference to Burma on the website where Chevron boasts of its worldwide operations and lists the dozens of countries where it has investments.
The earlier website is archived at www.archive.org.
In a recent report, lawyers for ERI concluded that Chevron faces liability for being complicit in murder, rape, and slave labor committed by the Burmese Army in providing "security" for the pipeline. ERI is most known for having settled a legal case against Unocal over the same charges before Chevron bought Unocal in 2005 and inherited the pipeline project.
As ERI noted in their report "The Human Cost of Energy: Chevron's Continuing Role in Financing Oppression and Profiting From Human Rights Abuse in Military-Ruled Burma (Myanmar)": "Chevron and its consortium partners continue to rely on the Burmese army for pipeline security, and those forces continue to conscript thousands of villagers for forced labor, and to commit torture, rape, murder and other serious abuses in the course of their operations. Due to its involvement in the Yadana Project, Chevron remains vulnerable to liability in U.S. courts for the abuses committed by these security forces." The full report is available at http://www.earthrights.org
The removal of any mention of Burma is the latest in a long series of controversial moves by Charles S. James, Chevron's General Counsel, to hide or divert attention from Chevron's growing human rights problems.
"James has shown a repeated willingness to tolerate unethical practices by Chevron to hide its growing reputation as a global human rights violator," said Jeremy Low, who monitors the company's human rights record for the Amazon Defense Coalition, which has sued Chevron for environmental damage in Ecuador.
"What we're seeing is hard information replaced by absolute fluff or just blank space," he added.
Just last week, Chevron was accused by the environmental group Amazon Watch of paying journalists to write favorable editorial content without disclosing their financial relationship to the company. One of the journalists, San Francisco writer Pat Murphy, has not denied he accepts fees from Chevron to write one-sided articles in his online newspaper that mysteriously get "Google bombed" to the top of search engines.
Undisclosed payments to journalists for favorable coverage are considered highly unethical, yet James has not denied that the company engages in the practice. The Nigeria case, being tried before Judge Susan Illston, has created a lengthy record of charges that Chevron paid Nigerian military officers to shoot local villagers who had staged a peaceful protest on one of the company's oil platforms. The trial, expected to last five weeks, began on Tuesday.
In the Amazon region of Ecuador, where Chevron faces a potential $16.3 billion liability for dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste, local lawyers have long accused the company of paying uniformed Ecuadorian army officers to provide "security" designed to intimidate members of indigenous groups.
"I am sure James wishes Chevron could erase its human rights problems as easily as it can erase mention of Burma from its website," said Low. "But as the company is now finding out, that's not so easy."