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Torture Allegations Shadow Rex Tillerson's Time at Exxon Mobil

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 16:13 -- admin

Torture Allegations Shadow Rex Tillerson's Time at Exxon Mobil, Mother Jones, January 11, 2017 - by Samantha Michaels

This week, Congress will consider whether to confirm President-elect Donald Trump's appointment for secretary of state. Trump's choice, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has come under fire for his close relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin and his lack of government experience. As Tillerson seeks to become America's top diplomat, another aspect of his past should come under scrutiny: his former company's troubling ties to allegations of torture and other grave human rights abuses in Indonesia.

Until recently, Exxon Mobil worked extensively in Indonesia's Aceh Province, home to one of the globe's largest natural gas fields. A company executive once said that for a time, Exxon Mobil's operations in the region were "the jewel in the company's crown." Back in the 1970s, Mobil Corp.—which in 1999 merged with Exxon Corp.—obtained exclusive rights to extract gas from the area and began a joint venture with the Indonesian government to process it. The company soon started employing Indonesian soldiers to protect its operations there. But in the 1990s and early 2000s, amid a war between the Indonesian military and armed separatists in the region, some of the soldiers working for the company allegedly detained, tortured, and even killed local Indonesian people who lived and worked nearby, according to a lawsuit first filed in the United States in 2001. Another lawsuit was filed on behalf of more Indonesians in 2007 and consolidated with the first.

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The litigation between Exxon Mobil and the Indonesian plaintiffs has now dragged on for about 16 years. A judge ruled in 2015 that the case could continue to move forward, stating that "the Court accepts as true for purposes of this motion" the assertion that "Exxon exercised substantial control over the activities of these soldiers." Collingsworth says his clients are still waiting for justice. "Some part of that is Rex Tillerson," he says. "He [was] the CEO. He could say, 'These people got hurt, the war's over, why don't we help them?'"

Collingsworth worries a State Department under Tillerson could intervene to side with big companies like Exxon Mobil in future human rights abuse cases. There's some precedent for this: In 2002, the State Department under President George W. Bush warned a court in the United States that allowing the Indonesians to pursue their lawsuit against Exxon Mobil could have a "potentially serious adverse impact" on US government interests. Now, Collingsworth said, the State Department has the power to determine whether his plaintiffs and witnesses can get visas to travel to the United States for trial—he adds that a trial date is imminent. More generally, he adds, the State Department can play a role in promoting rule of law in countries abroad. But if Tillerson, "the most prominent of all CEOs of the biggest oil company," is appointed, he says, it'll send a message to people around the globe: "The world is open for business—environment and human rights be damned."

For the full article, see here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/trumps-pick-secretary-state-...

For more on IRA's case against Exxon, see here: http://www.iradvocates.org/case/asia-indonesia/john-doe-v-exxon-mobil-co...