Washington, D.C., September 24, 2008 – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law heard today from human rights and environmental activists, who described to Chairman Richard Durbin the abuses committed by security forces working for Chevron Corporation in Burma and Nigeria.

“There is no doubt that American oil, gas, and mining companies operating in countries with poor human rights records face difficult challenges in protecting their employees and operations,” said Senator Durbin in his opening statement.  “However, when American companies choose to go into these countries, they assume a moral and legal obligation to ensure that security forces protecting their operations do not commit human rights abuses.”

Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, testified about environmental degradation from oil development in Nigeria and the violent suppression of environmental protestors, including the 1998 attack on unarmed protestors from the Ilaje community at Chevron’s Parabe platform.  Chevron faces trial in a lawsuit brought by victims of the Parabe attack, Bowoto v. Chevron Corp., in San Francisco federal court in October.

Watch the hearing here (Real Player required. Click here to download )

Mr. Bassey described returning to Ilaje land earlier this year, and seeing that severe environmental degradation still remained 10 years after the Parabe protest.  “I was received by the leader of Awoye village in Ilajeland, and he told me that usually they welcome visitors by presenting two things: a glass of water, and fish to eat,” said Mr. Bassey in his testimony.  “He told me, ‘Well, we don’t have fish, because the canals dredged by Chevron have brought saltwater and polluted the entire freshwater system.’  And they brought me water that was not even as clean as green tea.  And he told me that they fetched the water from a Chevron facility.  And I said, ‘Why would you drink this?’ And he said, ‘We have no option.’”

Ka Hsaw Wa, Executive Director of EarthRights International, testified about the abuses associated with Chevron’s Yadana gas pipeline in Burma, which relies on the brutal Burmese military for security, and called for greater oversight over U.S. companies.  “Laws that regulate corporations and prevent them from committing human rights abuses give people hope that one day they won’t be victims of human rights violations by American corporations who claim they are improving people’s lives.  For now, in my country, corporations like Chevron have only brought sadness and suffering.”

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