Posted 5 years ago on Oct. 11, 2012, 2:24 p.m. EST by GirlFriday
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But in a 2008 ruling (PDF), federal district court judge Louis Oberdorfer ordered Exxon to face trial. "A reasonable finder of fact," the judge wrote, citing internal correspondence from Exxon and its Indonesian subsidiary, EMOI, "could conclude that the paid security forces committed the alleged torts and that EMOI and Exxon Mobil are liable." Exxon appealed, but a federal circuit court panel upheld that part of the ruling in July 2011.
The fate of the ExxonMobil case now rests in the hands of the US Supreme Court. On October 1, the court heard arguments in a similar, better-known case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell)—and it's that case that may determine whether the Acehnese villagers ever get their day in federal court.
Like John Doe v. ExxonMobil, the Kiobel case relies on an 18th-century statute called the Alien Tort Claims Act. The Nigerian plaintiffs say it gives citizens outside the United States the right to sue any corporation with a US presence for aiding and abetting human rights abuses—such as the Nigerian government's alleged extrajudicial killings of Ogoni protester Ken Saro-Wiwa and Barinem Kiobel.