這個針對雪佛龍公司的集體訴訟案，判決書於7月11日發布，原告是守護亞馬遜陣線（Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia），代表厄瓜多亞馬遜北部地區80個原民和農民社區的草根團體。
這份最新判決也是對美國紐約南區地方法院法官卡普蘭（Lewis A. Kaplan）的重大打擊。
In a benchmark pollution case, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has rejected Chevron’s final appeal of a $9.5 billion pollution judgment that found the company deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste onto Indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest.
The unanimous 8-0 decision, issued in a 151-page document published July 11, was a total victory for the Indigenous groups that brought the case and a rejection of all of Chevron’s claims.
The Court rejected Chevron’s allegations that it was victimized by fraud, and the court threw out the company’s claim that Ecuadorian courts had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Ecuador’s Constitutional Court, which deals only with Constitutional issues, is the third major appellate court in Ecuador and the fourth court overall in the country to uphold the trial-level decision against Chevron, which was issued in 2011. Ecuador’s highest civil court, the National Court of Justice, has ruled unanimously to affirm the judgment against Chevron.
The class action case against Chevron was spearheaded by the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia, the Amazon Defense Front, a grassroots group representing 80 Indigenous peoples and farmer communities in Ecuador’s northern Amazon region.
The case was originally filed in 1993 in federal court in New York against the former oil field operator Texaco, now part of Chevron Corporation, on behalf of an estimated 30,000 rainforest villagers. But in 2001 a U.S. federal judge moved it to Ecuador’s courts at Chevron’s request after the company accepted jurisdiction there.
“This decision is another huge victory for the people of Ecuador in their historic two-decade battle for environmental justice against the world’s worst corporate polluter and rogue operator,” said Luis Yanza, a Goldman Prize winner who initiated the lawsuit against Chevron in U.S. federal court in 1993, and serves as president of the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia, Amazon Defense Front.
“No country should ever do business with Chevron until the company first pays for the harm it caused to the people of Ecuador,” Yanza said.
Patricio Salazar, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer on the case, said, “Justice has prevailed over Chevron’s illegal attempts to engage in constant attacks on lawyers who defend the Indigenous communities rather than litigate in good faith on the merits. It is now highly likely that Chevron will pay every last dollar of the judgment against it, as it is legally and ethically obligated to do.”
After eight years of proceedings slowed by Chevron’s strategy of deliberate delay, Ecuador’s trial court relied on 105 technical evidentiary reports to find in 2011 that the company poisoned a 1,500 square mile area of the Amazon with carcinogenic oil waste.
Thousands who live in the rainforest, including many Indigenous peoples, have died of cancer while tens of thousands must endure what is one of the world’s worst ongoing public health catastrophes.
Ecuador’s government, which received royalties from Chevron’s operation of 400 well sites, has been of little help to the victims. Medical care in the affected region is non-existent, and many people perish from cancer without even visiting a doctor and after receiving no treatment, said Steven Donziger, the Harvard educated U.S. legal representative of the Ecuadorian communities, who has taken dozens of trips to the affected area.
“Chevron has caused a humanitarian crisis in Ecuador of epic proportions that is ongoing to this day,” he said. “Tens of thousands of people will die in the coming years if nothing is done to clean up the pollution. The world must pay attention and Chevron shareholders and management must act immediately to address this worsening problem.”
Chevron has refused for years to pay the Ecuador judgment, now worth $12 billion with interest. Company officials have threatened the Indigenous groups with a “lifetime of litigation” if they persist.
The latest Ecuadorean court decision is also a major blow to controversial Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In 2014, Judge Kaplan ruled that the $9.5 billion Lago Agrio judgment leveled against Chevron by Ecuador’s highest court, was obtained by way of fraud and coercion.
Kaplan relied on false testimony from an admittedly corrupt Chevron witness to find that the Ecuador judgment was procured by fraud. Kaplan refused to seat a jury of impartial fact finders, and he refused to consider any evidence of Chevron’s environmental contamination in Ecuador.
But Kaplan’s decision was disproven after evidence emerged that Chevron paid large sums to Alberto Guerra, a former Ecuadorian judge booted from the bench after he admitted taking bribes. Guerra was moved with his family by Chevron to the United States and later admitted lying on the stand after being coached for 53 days by Chevron lawyers headed by Randy Mastro at Gibson Dunn.
Kaplan based his core findings largely on Guerra’s false testimony. And Kaplan remains the only judge in the world to have ruled in favor of Chevron.
Seventeen Ecuador judges, who had access to a fuller evidentiary record than Kaplan, ruled in favor of the affected communities. Twelve judges from Canada, including the country’s entire Supreme Court, have also ruled in favor of the Ecuadorians on various technical issues.
The Ecuador decision confronts Chevron on the brutal human consequences of both its original environmental crimes, which the Court emphasizes were not the result of an accident, but rather of deliberate operational decision-making designed to save money and enrich the company’s shareholders and executives, and the additional offense of its two-decade campaign of distraction and delay.
The Ecuadorian plaintiffs also have picked up several appellate victories in Canadian courts as they attempt to collect Chevron assets in that country to force compliance with the Ecuador judgment.