A lawyer named Katie Redford (no relation to Robert) is suing Unocal in a California Federal court for aiding the Burmese military in its brutal actions to clear peasants from the land the company needed for it gas pipeline. Based on an almost unknown Federal statute that goes back to the time of George Washington called the Alien Torts Claims Act, her suit, after being dismissed by a lower court, has been upheld by an appeals panel which said the case has merit and should go to trial:
In her 1994 law school paper, Redford had argued that such violations would include human rights abuses by the Burmese military, which was guarding construction in its country at a pipeline partly owned by Unocal, a California oil company. That is precisely what will be argued by lawyers on Dec. 3, when the case is heard in California Superior Court.As for the federal case, a decision on whether it will proceed to trial is pending. A three-judge appeals panel reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that Unocal may be liable for “aiding and abetting” the military in forced labor, murder, and rape since the company hired the soldiers and provided maps and information about the pipeline. The lower court had dismissed the suit because the company did not directly participate in the alleged abuses — though the judge said there was evidence that Unocal knew forced labor was being used and that it benefited from the project. Unocal has appealed the appellate court’s ruling. Redford says she is confident the case will proceed to trial. “You can’t put corporations above the law when fighting human rights abuses,” says Redford, now a 35-year-old mother of two. (emphasis added–m)
The major American contractor in Iraq, Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s company), is tied up with Unocal because its subsidiary, Brown & Root, is a subcontractor responsible for the actual construction of the pipeline. This is one of those unreported (by the American media, anyway) scandals in which American corporations either aid or countenance mass murder on behalf of their foreign interests, and they always get away with it by claiming either ignorance or lack of judicial jurisdiction. But Katie may have found a way to make them accountable. Finally.
You go, girl.