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Oxy suit could stay in the United States
12/10/2010
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California judge rules indigenous plainiffs´ pollution suit against oil company should be heard on US soil.

A group of indigenous Achuar from northern Peru won a new battle in having their pollution suit against California-based oil company Occidental Petroleum heard in the United States. The plaintiffs, two dozen Achuar community members, who allege Occidental operated recklessly in the close to three decades it pumped oil out of the northern Peruvian Amazon, dumping billions of barrels of toxic wastewater and other byproducts, sickening the local population with heavy metals.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California on Dec. 6 overturned a lower court´s ruling two years ago that the case must be heard in Peruvian courts.

Occidental, which denies the allegations, handed over the oil block, 1-AB, to Argentina´s Pluspetrol a decade ago.

“This is a major victory for the rights of indigenous peoples,” said Marco Simons, legal director of environmental and human rights group EarthRights International. “Oxy will now face justice in the US federal courts, rather than in a Peruvian legal system that has never compensated indigenous groups for environmental contamination.”

Simons and the plaintiffs´ legal representative have repeatedly argued that widespread corruption in Peru´s judicial system would inhibit a fair trial in the country.

“The Achuar people continue to suffer the devastating health impacts caused by Oxy´s damaging practices, which were illegal in the United States at the time,” said Atossa Soltani, director of indigenous rights group Amazon Watch. “This ruling means that the Achuar will finally get their day in US court and signals the end of the era when companies could destroy indigenous communities and their environment with impunity.”
— Latinamerica Press.


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