A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation: SLAPP
Move over Julian Assange, Bernard Collaery and Witness K, there’s another name to add to the list of human rights and environmental activists who are being persecuted by merged corporate and government interests.
Or as it was called in WW2, fascism.
US lawyer Steven Donziger has been held against his will at his home in New York City for over 700 days, and says he is being persecuted by oil giant Chevron and a corrupt US judicial system.
The US government, as you would expect, has been silent.
The reason, says Donziger, is that he and his legal team won an historic 2011 court case against Chevron/Texaco Petroleum after massive pollution in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle.
Reuters reported in May that shortly after the win, ‘the US company sued Donziger in Manhattan federal court, claiming he and his associates pressured the presiding judge in Ecuador’.
And this is where ‘state capture’, or the merged corporate and government interests, come in – Chris Hedges reported in Salon (August 2020) that Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, ‘a former lawyer for the tobacco industry who had undisclosed investments in funds with Chevron holdings, found Donziger guilty’.
Donziger explained to Hedges how Judge Kaplan abused the judicial system to reach a guilty verdict, and ‘tried to treat it like a national-security kind of case to try to demonise me’.
The cloak of national security is a favourite tactic with the Australian government too, as those familiar with the secret trial of whistleblowers Bernard Collaery and Witness K would know.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect to the guilty verdict, Hedges writes, is the judge also ordered Donziger to turn over decades of all client communication [phone, computer etc] to Chevron, ‘in effect, eradicating attorney-client privilege, a backbone of the Anglo-American legal system with roots dating to ancient Rome’.
In September 2020, a complaint was formally filed by the National Lawyers Guild, in conjunction with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), against Judge Kaplan over his ‘abusive targeting’ of Donziger.
According to IADL’s website, it was ‘founded in Paris in 1946 to fight to uphold the rule of law around the world and has consultative status with UN agencies’. IADL claims, ‘The complaint is signed by an unprecedented number of legal organisations, from approximately 80 countries, collectively representing 500,000 lawyers’.
Yet according to Chevron’s website, the court found that the Ecuadorian lawsuit against the company, ‘violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)’.
The company also claims to have ‘cleaned up its share’ and aggressively denounces Donziger as resorting to ‘personal and professional attacks’.
The global transnational is also not shy in threatening sovereign states, and writes, ‘Chevron is seeking to hold the Republic of Ecuador accountable for their role in denying Chevron justice through an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague’.
Last week, supporters gathered outside Donziger’s apartment, which included activist celebrities Roger Waters and Susan Sarandon.
Donziger told them, ‘If we do not now stop corporations like Chevron from weaponising the law, the rights of all Earth defenders will be in jeopardy. Please let’s remember the people of Ecuador. I was part of an international legal team that won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron on behalf of Indigenous peoples and farmer communities who started with no money’.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
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