Human Rights Attorney Steven Donziger, fighting to make Chevron pay $9.5 billion to Ecuador to clean up their mess left behind after decades of oil drilling, dumping, and spilling in Ecuador, served six months in jail for “Criminal Contempt.” EcoJustice Radio interviewed him on the original case and the efforts by Chevron-friendly judges to stop him from advocating for the Ecuadorian people. Through brazen judicial activism, Chevron turned Mr. Donziger into a Corporate Political Prisoner, under house arrest for more than two years, disbarred, with frozen bank accounts, $32 million in legal fees, a lien on his home, and no way to make a living. The judgment has not yet been paid. this was Part Two of an EcoJustice Radio series on Amazon Rainforest Defenders – LISTEN TO PART ONE – PART THREE
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Steven Donziger Fights for the Ecuadorian People and Goes to Jail for Winning the Case
Check out our special encore presentation of our interview with Human Rights Attorney Steven Donziger recorded in December 2020. We investigate the story of Chevron’s crimes in Ecuador with Mr. Donziger who represented Ecuadorian communities demanding justice in a $9.5 billion decision against them for one of the largest-ever oil disasters.
In a move calculated to shield Chevron and deter other lawyers from suing giant corporate polluters, Donziger was sentenced on October 1 of 2021 to the maximum of six months in prison for criminal contempt. While the case is being appealed, he continues to live under house arrest with the threat of prison hanging over his head.
Between 1964 and 1992, Chevron (then Texaco) illegally dumped 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador’s rainforest, a disaster that contaminated rivers and groundwater, destroyed forests and farms, and set off waves of cancer and birth defects in communities across an area of ancestral Indigenous land the size of Rhode Island. Impoverished victims of corporate malfeasance rarely have the resources to challenge their tormentors in court. But in 1993, Indigenous and campesino activists fighting to support “Los Afectados,” the name used for those affected by the public health crises that Chevron’s pollution created, asked a young lawyer named Steven Donziger to help them take legal action. In 1994, this coalition founded the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia (FDA).
Donziger and FDA worked together to bring a class-action lawsuit demanding justice on behalf of 30,000 Afectados. And in 2011, after nearly two decades of litigation and advocacy, a Chevron-instigated venue change from New York to Ecuador, eight years at trial, and three levels of appeals, Donziger and FDA won. An Ecuadorian court ordered the company to pay $18 billion—later reduced to $9.5 billion—to clean up its toxic waste and provide for the health needs of the people it had poisoned. In 2018, Ecuador’s highest court upheld the judgment.
EcoJustice Radio looks into how Chevron, supported by US federal judges, is using retaliatory attacks against Mr. Donziger and the Ecuadorian Peoples, and how their actions set a dangerous precedent and represent a growing and serious threat to the ability of civil society to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds around the world. Now a wide cross-section of U.S.-based environmental and corporate governance groups have condemned Chevron’s most recent retaliatory attacks to intimidate the Ecuadorian indigenous peoples and farmers who have been harmed by the oil giant’s massive contamination of their ancestral lands.
Steven Donziger, advocate, writer, and public speaker on human rights and corporate accountability, joined EcoJustice Radio to talk about the case, what actually took place, the historic retaliation against himself and the Ecuadorian Peoples, and how Chevron’s actions set a dangerous precedent and represent a growing and serious threat to the ability of civil society to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds around the world.
We investigate Chevron’s crimes in Ecuador with @SDonziger who represented communities demanding justice in a $9.5 billion decision against them for the oil disaster. @KPFK
Donziger was sentenced to max of 6 months in prison for criminal contempt. More: https://t.co/9hBNWnsS9N pic.twitter.com/EauDnG5SvI
— WilderUtopia (@WilderUtopia) October 22, 2021
Donate to Steven Donziger’s Defense: http://donzigerdefense.com
Amazon Watch: https://amazonwatch.org/
Chevron Toxico: https://chevrontoxico.com/
Make Chevron Clean Up Their Ecuador Mess: https://www.makechevroncleanup.com/
Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SDonziger
Podcast Website: http://ecojusticeradio.org/
Podcast Blog: https://www.wilderutopia.com/category/ecojustice-radio/
Support the Podcast: https://www.patreon.com/ecojusticeradio
Hosted by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Producer: Emilia Barrosse
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Photo courtesy Steven Donziger
Originally Published 3 December 2020, Updated 16 March 2023