ExxonMobil Settles Torture Case with Indonesian Villagers, Confidentiality Surrounds Terms

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Indonesian villagers who claimed Indonesian troops hired by the Houston-based oil and gas firm as guards were guilty of torturing and murdering people reached a settlement on Monday in their long-running human rights complaint. A jury trial in the Exxon case was scheduled to begin on May 24 in Washington, but that is no longer the case.

According to a federal court filing in Washington DC, the two sides have resolved the contentious case which first came to the fore in 2001. The terms of the deal are private, according to Agnieszka Fryszman, a lawyer for the Indonesian villagers at the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Exxon Mobil’s representative added to Reuters that the agreement “brings closure for all parties.”

Alex Oh abruptly resigned from his position as the enforcement head of the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2021 as a result of the litigation after a US judge expressed concerns about Oh’s behavior while defending Exxon at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

According to the sources, Indonesian soldiers to protect its activities in the Aceh region of the country during a time of upheaval and violence, the corporation was charged with negligence. In addition, the case aimed to hold Exxon responsible for alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated by the soldiers. The peasants at the core of a two-decade court struggle over alleged violations of their human rights claim that ExxonMobil-hired Indonesian soldiers tortured, assaulted, and beat them.

The alleged crimes allegedly occurred at a period when the Indonesian military had stationed thousands of troops in the region to put an end to pro-independence rebels’ protracted conflict. Only after at least 170,000 people were murdered in Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, did a peace deal materialize. The plaintiffs, 11 peasants who were not identified in court documents, cried when they learned of the settlement, according to Fryszman. According to Fryszman, They have been battling this case against one of the most powerful corporations in the world for 20 years.

In court documents, Exxon maintained that there weren’t enough connections between their business and the misconduct carried out by the Indonesian military. US District Judge Royce Lamberth disagreed with this argument. After determining that Oh, as a partner at Paul Weiss, unfairly accused opposing counsel of becoming “unhinged” during a deposition, Lamberth this year ordered Exxon to pay approximately $289,000 in sanctions.