Caso Chevron

Doug Cassel on the Letter to the Special Rapporteur

Letters Blogatory - Douglass Cassel 10/02/2016

Doug Cassel reponds to Aaron Marr Page’s post on the letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

Aaron Marr Page is right that human rights defenders are endangered, but wrong to try to wrap Steven Donziger in the protective blanket of their moral credibility. Donziger does not remotely merit the support of the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders.

Attacks and threats against human rights defenders do pose an enormous challenge. The UN Human Rights Council so recognized 15 years ago by establishing the position of the special rapporteur. Even so, in the Americas at least, defenders remain at risk. After reporting on the dangers for decades, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2011 established its own rapporteur on human rights defenders. Here in Mexico, where I am doing human rights research this semester, the Commission recently declared a “human rights crisis.” It warned that the “effect of the violence and fundamental rights violations is especially serious and disproportionate” to human rights defenders.

So we should all have common ground on the urgent need to defend the defenders. Day after day, they risk their lives, limbs and livelihoods to assert the rights of the most vulnerable populations.

But in so doing, in my experience, they do not bribe judicial officials. They do not fabricate evidence. They do not affix the signatures of their own experts on reports that contradict the expert’s actual findings. They do not write reports of judicial experts and then pass them off as if they were written by neutral officials. And they do not ghostwrite judgments in litigation.

In the Ecuadorian lawsuit against Chevron, Donziger was party to all of this and more. Page conveniently focuses on one witness for Chevron who admittedly lied, and on one United States federal judge whom Pag—unfairly—ccuses of bias. But long before the lying witness took the stand, and well before federal Judge Lewis Kaplan issued his 500-page judgment documenting Donziger’s fraud, there was already abundant evidence of misconduct. One US court (not Kaplan) found “mounds of evidence” that the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron was ghostwritten by the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Another federal court (again, not Kaplan) concluded that Chevron “has shown to anyone with common sense that this [Ecuadorian judgment] is a blatant cut and paste exercise.” And a third federal court (still not Kaplan) declared that what has “blatantly occurred in this matter would in fact be considered fraud by any court.”

To place a con man like Donziger in the company of honest human rights defenders, then, does a disservice to all those who risk their lives honorably in the service of human dignity.

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