New York Judge Lets Talisman Energy Genocide Case Proceed Despite Warnings From

Posted on Thursday, September 01 at 13:57 by jensonj
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote noted Tuesday in her ruling that documents from the U.S. and Canadian governments did not suggest that the civil case against Talisman and the Republic of the Sudan would hinder U.S. relations with Canada or the Sudan. She ruled after reviewing a diplomatic letter from the Canadian Embassy calling the case an "infringement in the conduct of foreign relations by the government of Canada" that would have a "chilling effect" on Canadian firms in the Sudan. The judge said Canada had indicated that once the Sudan peacefully resolved its internal disputes and Canadian trade support services resumed, Canadian companies would avoid joining Sudan's economic revitalization "out of fear of U.S. courts." "Even giving substantial deference to the Canada letter, Talisman has not shown that dismissal of this action is appropriate," the judge wrote. "Finally, the United States and the international community retain a compelling interest in the application of the international law proscribing atrocities such as genocide and crimes against humanity." The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was brought in 2001 by the Presbyterian Church of Sudan on behalf of current and former residents of southern Sudan against the Calgary-based oil company. The lawsuit alleges that there were regular meetings involving Talisman, Army intelligence and the Ministry of Energy and Mining in which Talisman mapped out areas intended for exploration and discussed how to dispose of civilians in those areas. It says Talisman and the government of Sudan "willfully participated in a campaign of ethnic cleansing, including extrajudicial killing, war crimes, forcible displacement, military bombings and assaults on civilian targets, confiscation and destruction of property, kidnapping, rape and enslavement against the non-Muslim, African Sudanese population living in and near the oil concession areas." Lawyers for the plaintiffs and for Talisman Energy, which stopped doing business in the Sudan more than two years ago, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment Tuesday. The U.S. Department of State in a letter told the court it took no position on the lawsuit's merits but shared the Canadian government's concerns. The judge said the Department of State said it might be proper to dismiss a case when another government protests that the U.S. proceeding interferes with its foreign policy in pursuit of goals that the United States shares. The U.S. letter said the United States "has been working actively and directly with the government of Sudan and with the international community for several years to bring an end to the decades-old conflict in southern Sudan and to bring relief to the many thousands of victims of that conflict." The letter also advised that the Alien Tort Claims Act, used as a basis for the lawsuit, should only apply to disputes affecting the rights of aliens within the United States for acts that take place in this country, the judge said. The obscure 1789 law was originally enacted to prosecute pirates but has been used since 1980 by Holocaust survivors and relatives of people killed or tortured under despotic foreign regimes. More recently, it has been invoked against multinational corporations, including ChevronTexaco over alleged abuses in Nigeria and Exxon Mobil over alleged problems in Indonesia. The judge acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court has said federal courts should give serious weight to the executive branch's view of a case's impact on foreign policy. But she said that there were few cases similar to the Talisman case and that it differed from a case in which large corporations were accused of using cheap labor in South Africa to sell products including technology and oil. That case was tossed out. In the Talisman case, she said, the plaintiffs allege that the company "knowingly assisted Sudan in perpetrating a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity, not that Talisman merely transacted business in and with Sudan." She said the South African Apartheid cases resulted from state executive policies encouraging investment whereas the Talisman claims "involve knowing assistance in the commission of grave human rights abuses, including jointly planning attacks on civilians and supporting and facilitating those attacks." She said she ruled as she did despite Canada's claim that the lawsuit will interfere with its foreign policy and handicap its efforts to promote peace in the Sudan. "The allegations in this lawsuit concern participation in genocide and crimes against humanity, not trading activity," she said. She said the contents of Canada's letter suggest "a lack of understanding about the nature of the claims" in the lawsuit.,0,719908,print.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork


Contributed By

Article Rating

 (0 votes) 



  1. Thu Sep 01, 2005 10:24 pm
    To hell with political niceties. If this company, and many others we've heard about, are accused of crimes, regardless where, in which country and how, they should stand trial and face the consequences. It is about time the world stood up against exploiters and often mass murderers in the holy name of corporate profits. This goes for any business involved in crime, regardless of their nationality. Crimes are crimes and no government, including Canadian, or US, should be permitted to protect criminals, but throw them to the courts.

    Now, let's see some of the oil, soft drink, etc.etc. companies getting charged for the actions of their private armies and goons, now getting away with murder all around the world. Ed Deak, Big Lake, BC.

  2. Thu Sep 01, 2005 11:01 pm
    Wild allegations with no substance against Talisman caused them to pull out of the Sudan. The fact was that they were working with NGO's and so forth in an effort to make life better for people in that region of the Sudan.

    Now they're gone and the Chinese have moved right in to replace them. What are the odds that the Chinese will lift a finger to help Sudanese people - just about zero, and we'll never even know what's going on in that region anymore.

  3. Fri Sep 02, 2005 1:56 am
    Good points. I don't think the Chinese will be better masters, considering their human rights record at home.

    At the same time, how do we know that the allegations against Talisman have been wild ? These mining companies have atrocious records all over. We have some copper/gold open pit mines in this area, doing terrible ecological damage, without any governmental surveillance. The workers are well paid, the companies waiting for GATS to replace them with imported labour, but they have 12 hour shifts for 7 days, with 7 off. This is not human, sitting on those machines for 12 hours, but nobody stops them. Ed Deak.

  4. Fri Sep 02, 2005 7:19 am
    I wonder if any individuals will be held responsible as opposed to the "company". I think if a company is charged then the individuals responsible for making decisons need to receive jail time and not just hefty $ fines levied on the company. These cases need to be taken seriously and responded to seriously so that the individuals making these bad decisions will think twice before doing it again or set an example for others thinking of committing crimes against humans or the environment.

    "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche

  5. Sat Sep 03, 2005 3:23 am
    <p>If Albertan corporations are legally treated as persons, then it’s unlikely that natural persons who made such decisions on behalf of the corporation will be held liable by the court — and even if they were, any such judgment would be made <i>in absentia</i> unless the individual went to New York to face the music.</p><p>---<br>Shatter your ideals upon the rock of Truth.<br />
    <br />
    — The Divine Symphony, by Inayat Khan<br />

  6. Sat Sep 03, 2005 9:26 am
    Well that's what needs to change! It's far to easy for us to separate the corporation from the people running it. " Well that's the company" as though there aren't real people responsible for the decisions being made for these huge corporations. If I was a politician that would be the one platform I would run on. Take away the laws that protect these corporations and make the individuals that run them responsibility and liable to loose their personal freedoms and personal finances. I can't even imagine how such laws came to be in the first place but it must have been when govenment officials started becoming more and more obligated to their corporate donors.

    "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche

  7. Mon Sep 05, 2005 4:10 am
    <p>Most likely is that the corporations are protected (i.e. separate legal entities) so that the corporation’s shareholders aren’t liable for the corporation’s debt. Were there Parliamentary will to revoke personhood from corporations, people would have to look long and hard at their RRSP investments to make sure that their potential liabilities didn’t suddenly exponentially increase …</p><p>---<br>Shatter your ideals upon the rock of Truth.<br />
    <br />
    — The Divine Symphony, by Inayat Khan<br />

  8. Mon Sep 05, 2005 4:37 am
    Bill C45 can be used against any Canadian company .

    Bill C-45 reflects the legislative reforms promised by the Government in its November 2002 response to the Fifteenth Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, tabled in June 2002. As outlined by the Department of Justice in November 2002, the highlights of the bill are as follows:

    The criminal liability of corporations and other organizations will no longer depend on a senior member of the organization with policy-making authority (i.e., a “directing mind” of the organization) having committed the offence.
    The physical and mental elements of criminal offences attributable to corporations and other organizations will no longer need to be derived from the same individual.
    The class of personnel whose acts or omissions can supply the physical element of a crime (actus reus) attributable to a corporation or other organization will be expanded to include all employees, agents and contractors.
    For negligence-based crimes, the mental element of the offence (mens rea) will be attributable to corporations and other organizations through the aggregate fault of the organization’s “senior officers” (which will include those members of management with operational, as well as policy-making, authority).
    For crimes of intent or recklessness, criminal intent will be attributable to a corporation or other organization where a senior officer is a party to the offence, or where a senior officer has knowledge of the commission of the offence by other members of the organization and fails to take all reasonable steps to prevent or stop the commission of the offence.
    Sentencing principles specifically designed for corporate/organizational offenders will be adopted.
    Special rules of criminal liability for corporate executives will be rejected.
    An explicit legal duty will be established on the part of those with responsibility for directing the work of others, requiring such individuals to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm arising from such work.

    Good government is not a party government

  9. Mon Sep 05, 2005 5:22 am
    The consumer needs to take some personal responsibility for what they are contributing to as well. So having to "look long and hard at their RRSP investments" is a good thing. (That's my Martha Stewart impression.)

    "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche

  10. Mon Sep 05, 2005 5:24 am
    Wayne thanks for that information too.

    "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche

view comments in forum

You need to be a member and be logged into the site, to comment on stories.

Latest Editorials

more articles »

Your Voice

To post to the site, just sign up for a free membership/user account and then hit submit. Posts in English or French are welcome. You can email any other suggestions or comments on site content to the site editor. (Please note that Vive le Canada does not necessarily endorse the opinions or comments posted on the site.)

canadian bloggers | canadian news