Communities from the Ecuadorean rainforest are filing a petition against US energy giant Chevron for allegedly breaching their human rights.
The Amazon Defense Coalition recently won an $18 billion judgement against Chevron for environmental damage, a ruling the oil firm is challenging in court.
Now it claims Chevron is manipulating a trade agreement – the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) – to try and sidestep this judgement, by passing it through a secretive panel of judges.
The judges’ meetings are not open, which the campaigners say is unfair.
Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs said: “Chevron is trying to convince the private arbitral panel to override the decisions of a public court in a sovereign country where Chevron chose to litigate.
“Any decision by the panel granting Chevron’s requests would violate international law and certainly would not bind the indigenous communities who are not a party to the proceedings.”
The Ecuadorians put their petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Mr Fajardo added: “By filing this petition, we are showing that we will use every legal means available to expose Chevron’s disrespect for the rule of law and to protect the rights of our clients.”
Chevron dubbed the filing as “false and misleading” and retorted it was also the alleged victim of suspect behaviour from its accusers.
It issued a statement: “The American plaintiff’s lawyers have now made a filing before Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, omitting any mention of the established evidence of their bribes, threats against judges, collusion with officials, and false statements to government entities. To make such a filing before a respected Commission demonstrates only their cynicism and their desire to avoid review of the merits of their misconduct.”