Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland



Executive Order 13303

Columbian Coke (Coca-Cola)

Burmese oil case against UNOCAL



Article from August Update Page . . . its relevance becomes even more apparent if you read on. . .

Executive Order 13303

A Presidential directive, known as Executive Order 13303 (which can be downloaded as a PDF from this page or here) was slipped out by the Bush Regime on May 22nd. It has been little remarked on in the British press, but its effect will be a further undermining of international law by the US administration and their corporate masters. The Executive Order effectively grants immunity to all US corporations involved in the oil business in Iraq, for any civil or criminal cases which may be bought against them. This means, as pointed out in a small Guardian article of August 15th 2003, that

Corporate oil security workers who shoot Iraqis in the course of their working day would be immune from prosecution. If a tanker sinks or a refinery explodes, the company will be immune from judgment, as indeed would a firm that decided to employ slave labour to build a pipeline, or catastrophically polluted the environment. "13303 cancels the concept of corporate accountability and abandons the rule of [domestic and international] law," explains a paper by Tom Devine, director of US Democratic legal thinktank Government Accountability Project. "[It] is a blank cheque for corporate anarchy."

Other links on this subject from RECLAIM DEMOCRACY and TOM PAINE and Campaign for Labor Rights

Boycott Coca-Cola!

A worldwide boycott of the sugared-water fizzy drink, Coca-Cola (no relation to the infinitely tastier Mecca Cola) has been launched by trade unions after a suit was launched in 2001 against the company and their bottling plants in Columbia .

It is alleged that the bottling plants have been responsible for hiring fascist 'militia' groups in the country to terrorise union activists, and also solicited the assassination of at least nine union leaders over the last 13 years. The Columbian Trade Union, Sinaltrainal alleges that the companies "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilised extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders.' Coca-Cola's name was removed from the writ by the US judge in March, but the case against the bottling companies was allowed to continue.

No- one in Columbia has ever been detained in relation to the murders, despite blatant threats being issued prior to assassinations (the managers of a plant in Carepaapparently directing paramilitaries to kill two union leaders, one of whom was later shot at the factory). The most recently reported case was in August 2003, in the city of Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast. Adolfo Munera, a union activist who was recently cleared of criminal charges dating from 1997 brought by the city's bottling plant, was murdered one week after the Columbian High Court had insisted the plant re-employ him.

The International Confederation of Trade Unions reported that of the 213 union deaths last year, 184 were in Columbia.

Coca Cola Boycott Declaration / Columbia Solidarity Campaign / the case

More Blood for Oil profits

Saipem Base Camp Da Min Seik

12 Burmese workers have taken the US oil giant Unocal to court in Los Angeles, alleging that they were terrorised by rape and murder by the military government to become 'indentured labour', and their land was subject to 'environmental degradation' to clear a path for the Yadana Project, a Unocal / Total pipeline. American civil rights groups Earth Rights International , the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the International Labour Rights Fund, have supported the Burmese claimants, who are remaining anonymous for fear of Burmese Government reprisals. A Guardian article on July 28th 2003 perhaps demonstrated why Bush was so keen to sign Executive Order 13303 granting immunity in Iraq to US corporations;

The action is being brought under an old law, the Alien Tort Claims Act, passed in 1789, the scope of which is in dispute. The US justice department hast intervened in support of Unocal, arguing that the act should not apply. The attorney general, John Ashcroft, had been lobbied by trade groups anxious to avoid the possibility of being sued as a result of their foreign operations. The department argues that the case could adversely affect the US "war on terrorism" by alienating its allies. . .

Paul Hoffman, a member of the plaintiffs' legal team, said the judges were aware of its significance. "They realise that this is an incredibly important decision, because it is really the first major case involving the Alien Tort Claims Act and corporate responsibility and they know they are going to be setting a standard for the country. They probably also know that the US supreme court is more than likely to take the case."

Other oil corporations facing potentially damaging lawsuits are Exxon Mobil operations in Indonesia; Texaco, for its 'business' activities in Ecuador and Royal Dutch Petroleum, who encouraged the Nigerian Government's repression of minority peoples, including the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa; and Exxon Mobil for its operations in Indonesia.

Earthrights on EO 13303 / Earthrights on Burma /corporate responsibility database /Global Unions ; Companies linked with Burma