Archive for the ‘Preliminaries’ Category

Some References

In Preliminaries on October 26, 2008 at 5:13 pm

The lion’s share of information on this decade-long case is available on the following sites:

“The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.”

Pages on Bowoto v. Chevron here and here.

“ERI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group of activists, organizers, and lawyers with expertise in human rights, the environment, and corporate and government accountability. ERI has offices in the U.S. and Southeast Asia.”

Pages on Bowoto v. Chevron here.

“Justice in Nigeria Now (JINN) is a San Francisco-based organization working in solidarity with communities in Nigeria and allies in the U.S. to hold multinational corporations accountable for their operations in Nigeria to act in a manner that respects human rights, protects and cleans up the environment, and enhances community livelihoods.”

Pages on Bowoto v. Chevron here.

And of course…

(who has helpfully “sponsored” links to their site on Google searches of “Bowoto” “Bowoto v. Chevron” and “Bowoto EarthRights”)

Pages on Bowoto v. Chevron here.


State Department Denies Visas to Witnesses

In News Generally, Preliminaries on October 24, 2008 at 11:17 pm
Jason Doiy/The Recorder. Courtesy of
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston. Image: Jason Doiy/The Recorder. Courtesy of

The trial starts Monday, so I thought I’d revisit some of the recent developments.

Back in August, the State Department decided to deny visas to the Nigerian witnesses scheduled to testify. Northern District Court of California Judge, Susan Illston was informed of the decision by Chevron’s attorney Robert Mittelstaedt of Jones Day’s San Francisco office.  According to Mr. Mittelstaedt  11 of the 12 witnesses were denied visas because there was little proof that they would return home after testifying. The State Department offered no official statement.

It’s seems unlikely that witnesses testifying in such a high-profile case would have an easy time violating their entry visas. The lack of a plausible justification has fueled speculation that State’s decision was a political move, motivated by Chevron’s lobbying efforts or by the Bush administration’s known antipathy to ATS suits.

According to one article,  attorney for the plaintiffs, Theresa Traber of Traber & Voorhees, included a request in her filing for a trial delay that would require Chevron to deliver a sworn declaration that it played no role in pressuring  the Nigerian  or  U.S. governments to withhold the visas. Mr. Mittelstaedt vehemently denied the accusations and attributed them to “an unrelenting publicity campaign attacking us.”

Judge Illston dismissed the plaintiff’s suggestion as mere innuendo, but nonetheless condemned the  decision in strong words: “I am shocked that the State Department would take that point of view, that [the witnesses] will not be granted visas to testify in a federal court […] That is a different branch of government and I can’t do anything about it, but I am shocked.”

Judge Illston agreed to delay the start of the trial from September 28th to October 27th.  The court will hear the witnesses’ testimony via videotaped depositions.


Gut reaction: disregarding the insinuations, the decision to deny these visas still speaks volumes to this administration’s hostility to international human rights law in general, and the growing body of ATS suits in particular.  

Here’s hoping the next four years will see the State Department and DOJ finally acting as real “friends of the court” when it comes to international human rights cases.