The Supreme Court of Justice of Brasil dismissed the claim of the Ecuadorian indigenous and peasant communities against Chevron argumenting that the assets of Chevron Brazil were not related to Chevron Corporation, and thereby avoided to recognize the Ecuadorian judgment. The Ecuadorian plaintiffs will appeal this decision. They consider that the court committed an important judicial error in avoiding to assume the jurisdiction concerning this demand.
Quito, 30th of November 2017.- The Supreme Court of Justice of Brazil decided to dismiss the demand of exequatur of the indigenous and peasant communities for the judgment against Chevron concerning the environmental damages caused in the Northern Amazon of Ecuador. They declared they will make appeal against this decision which, according to the lawyers of the plaintiffs in Ecuador, appears to be a simplist and limited argumentation.
Pablo Fajardo, the lawyer of the Ecuadorian communities, declared that this decision violates the rights of the plaintiffs to demonstrate that the assets of Chevron Brasil in reality belong to the parent company, Chevron corporation, which denies justice to the victims. According to Fajardo and the Brasilian team of lawyers, the Brasilian judges should have recognised the validity of the Ecuadorian sentence before discussing the pertinence to seize assets that belong directly or indirectly to the corporation. He said that this judgment lacks refinement and could have been written by any law student who does not look beyond business norms.
The decision of the Brasilian court comes to put the focus on the worldwide discussion about the structure of impunity protecting transnationals which commit human rights violations. They hide themselves behind the corporate veil using several levels of subsidiairies as well as tax paradises. By so doing they can not only avoid the payment of taxes, but also evade their legal accountability in other jurisdictions.
The case against Chevron has clearly revealed once again the legal architecture of corporate impunity. According to Fajardo « the links of Chevron Corporation with its subsidiairies of which they own 100%, have been evidenced over and over in several judicial and political instances. For instance, Chevron Corporation has declared before the American supervisory authorities that its Brasilian subsidiaries are part of its assets and that the company receives directly all their incomes and files its taxes taking into account the profits of those subsidiairies as its own revenues.
Willian Lucitante, executive coordinator of the UDAPT – Union of those Affected by Chevron-Texaco, declared that the verdict of the Brasilian Court was not a surprise for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs. On some earlier occasions, they were alerted concerning certain facts which made them doubt of the independancy of the Brasilian Justice.
On the basis of these facts, said Lucitante, we decided to remove our claim in Brazil. Nonetheless, the Court of Justice inexplicabilily continued with the homologation process. The leader of the affected communities recalled that the rapporteur, Dr. Luis Felipe Salomão assumed the position of the judge rapporteur and has replaced the former judge rapporteur, Felix Fisher, a recognized Brasilan judge, who treated the beginning of the homologation of the sentence, but was forced to resign as judge rapporteur, when Chevron made a contract with one of his assistants. In addition to this situation, there are the enormous similarities between the opinion of the procurator Nicolao Dino and the arguments of Chevron as well as of the American judge Kaplan. This judge, issued a judgment in New York, stating that the indigenous and peasant communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon formed a criminal organisation in order to extort Chevron on the basis of « false environmental claims ». In this view, Nicolao not only denied the existence of the environmental crime committed by Chevron in Ecuador, but also ignored all the proofs that invalidated the elucubrications of the American judges.
Facing this sentence, the lawyers of the UDAPT provided abundant information that showed the inconsistencies, errors and fallacies of this judgment, but which were no accepted by the judge rapporteur. He suspiciously and surprisingly convoked a court hearing, denying the defenders of the UDAPT the right to express their views concerning more than 1000 pages of information submitted by Chevron during the last months.
Notwithstanding the decision of the Brasilian court, Lucitante declared that the plaintiffs will continue their legal actions to make Chevron pay, in all the jurisdictions according to the decisions of the affected communities. He also stressed that no court before which the Ecuadorians appealed, invalidated the Ecuadorian sentence. The judgments referred to the corporate veil that protects transnational enterprises.
The leader of the Ecuadorian communities declared that the Brasilian sentence demonstrated once again the economic domination of the transnational corporations on the states. He insisted that the affected communities will not stop and will continue to globalize this struggle after 24 years of litigation. This decision, he said, is not only a sentence against the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, but also reflects the lack of access to justice for all the people whose rights are violated by the transnational corporations. This situation forces us to continue our commitment to globalize this struggle and to create awareness, untill some independant jurisdiccion is disposed to do justice and will consider that human rights stand above the corporate norms that protect the transnationals.
Finally he informed that the litigation against Chevron goes on in Canada, where a hearing will take place in April next year. He recalled that they obtained an important victory in this country. The Court of Appeal for Ontario refused to require the Ecuadorians to provide a caution of a million dollars as demanded by Chevron, arguing that an enterprise earning billions of dollars does not need a protection for a million to cover its legal costs. For the Canadian court, instead of requesting protection concerning legal fees, this was a clear tactic to terminate this litigation. The Court of Appeal for Ontario stressed that the amount in dispute was intended to be used for environmental reparation and therefore estimated that this litigation is of public interest. According to the text of the sentence « There can be no doubt that the environmental devastation to the appellants’ lands has severely hampered their ability to earn a livelihood ».