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After 20 years, Indonesia’s ExxonMobil accusers eye day in court | Energy News

Medan, Indonesia – John Doe can still recall the moment his alleged torturers made him believe he would never see his family again.

It was in 2000 in Aceh Province, Indonesia, following his alleged capture by members of the Indonesian military working at the nearby ExxonMobil gas plant.

“They tied me up in a crucifix position and electrocuted me,” Doe, who uses a pseudonym to protect his identity, told Al Jazeera. “I just kept praying to God in my heart. I thought: ‘I’m going to die today.’”

“People who were captured by the Exxon army rarely returned home,” he added.

John Doe’s harrowing testimony is part of a civil lawsuit that could finally reach trial this year after languishing more than two decades in the United State’s clogged legal system.

Originally filed in 2001 in the District Court for the District of Columbia, John Doe v ExxonMobil alleges that the gas and oil giant is responsible for a litany of human rights abuses at its Aceh plant in the early 2000s, including battery, sexual assault, rape and wrongful deaths.

“I filed our human rights case against ExxonMobil in 2001 for its use of a brutal private military to protect its natural gas liquefaction facilities in Aceh, Indonesia,” human rights lawyer Terry Collingsworth told Al Jazeera.

“Exxon’s soldiers killed and tortured my clients and many others, all innocent civilians who lived near the Exxon facilities.”

Aceh saw clashes between government and separatist forces from the 1980s to early 2000s [File: Tarmizy Harva/ Reuters]

Aceh Province is home to extensive oil and natural gas deposits as well as timber and other minerals, and the province produces about one-third of Indonesia’s liquified natural gas.

Mobil Oil Indonesia, which was bought by Exxon in 1999 to become ExxonMobil Corporation, first moved into the region in the early 1970s after discovering natural gas deposits near the town of Lhoksukon. By the late 1990s, the company was generating more than $1bn in annual revenues.

At the same time, Aceh was in the grip of a 20-year civil war between the national government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM). From the 1980s through to the early 2000s, the Indonesian military regularly clashed with the separatists, prompting ExxonMobil to contract Indonesian soldiers to guard its staff and operations at its facilities.

In 2000, ExxonMobil was paying more than $500,000 a month to retain members of the Indonesian military as security personnel, according to court documents.

The 11 plaintiffs in John Doe v ExxonMobil allege that the soldiers did much more than just guard ExxonMobil’s interests, and instead regularly conducted raids during which they would round up villagers and torture them into admitting they were separatists, sometimes even bringing them onto ExxonMobil property to conduct violent interrogations.

“If I get hit by an ExxonMobil truck driver, I get to sue ExxonMobil, not the truck driver,” Michel Paradis, a human…

Read More: After 20 years, Indonesia’s ExxonMobil accusers eye day in court | Energy News

2022-02-08 00:00:12

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