First of all, I am very pleased to announce that repeat TN guest author and independent consultant Shane Quinn will shortly be providing some observations on recent proposals to stabilize Somalia by providing autonomy to its regions. I am also expecting follow-up pieces by Brookings collaborator Roberto Vidal on property issues in Colombia, and by legal aid team leader Massimo Moratti on property claims in Kosovo.
In the meantime, I also wanted to provide some follow-up on two recent guest-postings contributed by Nicholas Fromherz of the South American Law and Policy blog. First, Nicholas has provided an update to his earlier observations in TN on the controversy over plans to build a road through the TIPNIS nature reserve in Bolivia. Once again, it seems that the appearance of government restraint in the matter may be deceiving.
Second, a further comment on litigation over oil extraction-related damages in Bolivia by Chevron-associated law professor Doug Cassel on Opinio Juris – as well as the associated comments – highlight some of the key issues Nick raised in his guest-posting on the same topic – and its associated comments. Particularly interesting are questions related to tensions between the merits of the case and the behavior of the parties. However, Dr. Cassel also defends the engagement of human rights actors in favor of even big corporate plaintiffs like Chevron as necessary to demonstrate a level of consistency and impartiality necessary to convince such firms to sign onto voluntary human rights guidelines.
See Shane’s posting here:
– Local governance in Somalia – New emperor in old clothes? (18 April 2012)
by Nicholas A. Fromherz
As a student of environmental law, resident of the Andes, and former clerk for two federal judges, I have followed the Chevron-Ecuador case with increasing interest—and, of late, increasing concern. No matter which side we believe, it is clear that the people and ecology of Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region have been affected by the operations of Chevron (or, perhaps more accurately, those of predecessor Texaco and the state-owned Ecuadorian firm Petroecuador).
But that will always be the case with extractive industry—more important factors for purposes of litigation are to what extent and what, if anything, was done in the way of prevention and/or mitigation. This post will not attempt to answer those questions. More informed individuals and groups have offered a range of answers as to these very points (see here and here), and my own speculation on the matter would only add to what has become a morass of conflicting information.
Instead of analyzing the merits of the case, I would like to discuss two issues that have received less than complete coverage: (1) the unintended and unlikely consequences of Chevron’s effort to remove the case from U.S. federal court on grounds of forum non conveniens; and (2) the institutional and socio-political factors that must be considered when analyzing Chevron’s claims of judicial corruption by the Ecuadorian courts.
by Rhodri C. Williams
This being a blog on the legal aspect of conflicts over land and natural resources, it has become increasingly untenable to continue ignoring one of the most bitter and protracted such disputes of all time, namely the Chevron-Ecuador case. At the same time, given the numerous twists and turns this litigation has taken in its various phases, trying to catch up with it, let alone say something meaningful on it, seemed well beyond my faculties.
Based on the reading I have been able to do, I was also aware of the strong passions the case has raised. For instance, this overview in the New Yorker portrays the conflict as a battle of wills between two highly willful lawyers – in effect, the unstoppable victims’ advocate meets the immovable corporate defense attorney. Recent exchanges on Opinio Juris between contributor Kevin Jon Heller, on one hand, and Notre Dame professor Doug Cassell have similarly struggled to keep to the genteel conventions of non-dittohead neighborhoods of the blogosphere (see in particular this exchange in comments).
For all these reasons, I have been cautious in approaching the toxic debate about the toxic lawsuit over the toxic sludge of Lago Agrio. However, I am now all the more happy to be able to provide a forum to repeat TN guest and South American Law & Policy blog author Nicholas Fromherz, who will focus on the broader implications revealed by the case for parties to transnational litigation of all stripes.
Nick’s post has now been published as:
An inconvenient forum: Thoughts on the Chevron-Ecuador Case (30 March 2012)