The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Bush administration for its view on a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. that alleges human rights abuses were committed at a natural gas facility in Indonesia.
The dispute has implications for other multinational corporations because Exxon Mobil is seeking to make it easier for companies to fight suits involving alleged abuses overseas.The lawsuit was initiated in 2001 by a human rights group, International Rights Advocates, on behalf of 11 Indonesian villagers in the Aceh province, alleging that members of the Indonesian military committed rampant human rights abuses while under Exxon’s employ to guard a natural gas facility.The Indonesian troops allegedly committed “murder, torture, sexual assault, battery, false imprisonment” and other abuses and used Exxon’s facilities to do so, the human rights group said in court papers.Lawyers for Exxon argued in a lower federal court that the case should be dismissed because it involves issues of international relations that should be left to the executive branch.But the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed parts of the suit to proceed, and an appeals court refused to consider Exxon’s appeal.Exxon urged the justices to take the case due to a “recent surge of litigation” alleging wrongdoing by foreign governments and multinational corporations.The company cited lawsuits against Chevron Corp. for abuses committed by Nigeria’s military and against Yahoo Inc. for its alleged complicity in human rights abuses by China’s government.Due to fears for their safety, the Acehnese plaintiffs in the suit against Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil are all named as John or Jane Does.The Justice Department’s solicitor general, the administration’s lawyer, can recommend that the court accept or reject the appeal.The case is Exxon Mobil Corp. v. John Doe, 07-81. Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.