Lawsuit against Exxon over torture in Indonesia can proceed, judge says

A U.S. federal judge declared last week that a lawsuit brought against ExxonMobil on behalf of Indonesian villagers can proceed. In 2001, the D.C.-based International Labor Rights Fund sued the company in a U.S. court on behalf of 11 Indonesians from Aceh province, claiming that Indonesian security forces paid by Exxon had used company facilities to commit torture, rape, and murder. According to previous statements from Exxon executives, Indonesian military forces were deployed during a conflict at a natural-gas field and pipeline operated by the oil giant in Aceh. Exxon argues, with characteristic sensitivity, that allowing the villagers to sue under U.S. state law could set a bad precedent. “The lawsuit created the potential for any U.S. company operating overseas to be held vicariously liable for host government actions,” said an Exxon spokesflack. The company may appeal. And, oh yeah — it denies any wrongdoing.