An amicus brief was filed today by the National Lawyers Guild and International Association of Democratic Lawyers in the Second Circuit on behalf of human rights attorney, Steven Donziger, supporting his request for mandamus relief. The brief provides an international human rights law perspective on shocking treatment of Mr. Donziger in nearly a decade legal attacks on him by Chevron Corporation and, more recently, private lawyers acting as criminal prosecutors and actively coordinating with Chevron. The brief links the pattern of judicial abuse to Chevron’s impunity and the persecution of human rights defenders globally.
In an underlying historic environmental case, Mr. Donziger successfully sued Chevron on behalf of indigenous peoples and affected communities for environmental devastation in the Ecuadorean Amazon, in what has been called one of the most important corporate accountability cases of our time. Since 2011 when the $9.5 billion judgment was issued against it (affirmed by three levels of Ecuadorean courts), Chevron has refused to make any effort to pay or clean-up the Amazon, instead aggressively sought to, in its own words “demonize” Mr. Donziger. After Mr. Donziger refused to give attorney-client privileged information to Chevron in one of the civil lawsuits, he was abruptly charged with criminal contempt of court—but because public prosecutors refused to take the case, private lawyers, linked to Chevron, were appointed to prosecute the contempt. As part of the process, Mr. Donziger has been on pre-trial home detention for over 11 months.
When U.S. courts fail to offer due process as dramatically as they have in Mr. Donziger’s case, international human rights law must stand as a bulwark to protect human rights defenders and the underlying causes they represent. Mr. Donziger’s case has important implications for attorneys engaged in human rights and environmental rights work, and for communities around the world.
The brief was filed by lawyers Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan and Natali Segovia on behalf of the NLG and the IADL. Both organizations earlier launched an international open letter from lawyers, legal organizations and human rights advocates. Signed by over 475 endorsers, the letter raised serious concerns about the profound injustices in the Donziger case, “one of the most important corporate accountability and human rights cases of our time.”