UN Human Rights Experts: Release Steven Donziger

The detained American attorney who won a judgment against Chevron in Ecuador was sentenced Friday to six months in jail for defying court orders.

Steven Donziger. (Still from video by Amazon Watch and Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía)

By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams

[Update: Bloomberg News reports Oct. 1 that Steven Donziger was sentenced to six months in jail for defying court orders.]

Ahead of Steven Donziger’s sentencing scheduled for Friday, five United Nations human rights experts ruled that the American attorney who won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuadorian courts has been “arbitrarily” detained in the U.S. for 787 days.

Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía (FDA) — the Ecuadorian organization that spearheaded the case against Chevron on behalf of Indigenous people impacted by decades of oil pollution in the Amazon — revealed the experts’ recent conclusions about Donziger’s detention in a statement Wednesday.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, made up of independent experts appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, said that it was “appalled by uncontested allegations in this case,” noting that the U.S. government did not respond to its request for input.

Given the details made available, the working group called on the U.S. government to “take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Steven Donziger without delay and bring it in conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Steven Donziger’s ankle monitor. (Steven Donziger, Twitter) 

“Taking into account all the circumstances of the case,” the working group said, “the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Steven Donziger immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.”

The experts also urged the U.S. government to “ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Steven Donziger and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.”

Martin Garbus, who leads Donziger’s legal team with Ron Kuby, said that “this is an extremely significant and courageous decision by five international jurists who confirm what we have been saying for over two years: Steven Donziger has been subject to an illegal detention orchestrated by Chevron and two ideologically driven trial judges who are retaliating against him for winning a major pollution judgment in Ecuador against a powerful U.S. corporation.”

After the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York declined to prosecute Donziger for contempt charges — some of which result from the lawyer’s refusal to comply with a court order to turn over his electronic devices containing client information to Chevron — U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan appointed a private law firm to prosecute him and handpicked U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska to preside over the case.

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Preska — who is affiliated with the Chevron-funded Federalist Society —denied Donziger’s request for a jury trial and in July found him guilty of six counts of criminal contempt of court. Donziger can be sentenced on Friday to at most six months behind bars, only a fraction of the time he has spent confined to his Manhattan home with an ankle monitor on the judge’s orders.

“We are calling on Judge Preska to release Steven immediately pending the outcome of his appeal, where we fully expect him to be exonerated,” said Garbus, who has previously represented the late South African President Nelson Mandela and American whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

“We also will open up communications with the U.S. government to ensure that the U.N. decision is fully implemented,” Garbus added. “At a minimum, that will involve removing Judges Preska and Kaplan, releasing Steven, dismissing the charges, and investigating how this type of corporate abuse of our judicial system could have happened.”

Some progressive U.S. lawmakers have suggested that Donziger’s case proves a need for urgent reforms regarding the use of private prosecutors. Others have expressed concerns about the “unprecedented nature” of the case and the “deeply concerning” process by which it played out, urging U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch a full investigation.

The Intercept reported Wednesday that Garland has yet to respond to that call while top Democrats including House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler of New York have stayed silent and “harbor close ties to the law firms defending Chevron: chief among them Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the corporate firm where Nadler’s son is an associate.”

While neither Chevron nor Gibson Dunn responded to The Intercept‘s requests for comment, and a spokesperson for Nadler said only that he does not comment on ongoing cases and his son has no role in this one, Donziger called out the congressman.

“Jerry Nadler’s silence reflects a sad lack of commitment to human rights protections in the United States of America,” Donziger said. “Worse, it appears to be the result of rank hypocrisy: His son works at the same Chevron law firm that has reaped massive fees for attacking me and trying to ruin my life, which is in and of itself a gross human rights violation.”

Supporters of Donziger — including his attorneys, musician and activist Roger Waters, and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson — plan to rally outside a New York City courthouse on Friday at 8:30 am ET ahead of the sentencing.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

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13 comments for “UN Human Rights Experts: Release Steven Donziger

  1. Janet Cassidy
    October 2, 2021 at 17:41

    This is an abomination!

  2. Rose Crayton
    October 2, 2021 at 11:51

    This is an abominable display of corporate green and a failure of the justice system to preserve human rights and dignity.

  3. Alain
    October 2, 2021 at 11:50

    The best description that I can think of for this case is “FASCIST POLICE STATE!”

  4. a.hall
    October 1, 2021 at 19:24

    America is ruled by it`s Wall Street Oligarchs. Democrat and Republican Policies are Interchangeable and Meaningless. All American Presidents since JFK are Figureheads.

  5. Jim Thomas
    October 1, 2021 at 15:42

    “Justice”, U.S. style. The persecution of political prisoners is the first priority. Just ask Julian Assange, whom the U.S. has for the last decade engaged in the process of murder by whatever means possible, including baseless charges made because Assange told the truth about U.S. war crimes. The U.S. is a rogue state which does not follow the rule of law. The real criminals are given a free pass. The truth tellers and workers for human rights and justice are persecuted in every possible way, including illegal detention, force and threats of force against the families of those considered “enemies” by the U.S. John Bolton personally threatened Jose Bustani, a former Brazilian diplomat for the offense of trying to employ diplomacy in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2002. In typical U.S. style thuggish style Bolton told the diplomat that “we know where your kids are”. Nice touch of U.S. style diplomacy.

  6. Middleagedteenangst
    October 1, 2021 at 15:40

    Once again, the dual nature of the U.S. justice system is unapologetically and defiantly deployed to chasten those mere mortals who dare contemplate challenging the might of the oligarch puppet masters. Despite madam judge’s protestations to the contrary, Donziger is a victim of outrageous partiality and his sentence is meant as a warning to future litigators that they dare hold big oil to account at their peril. One need look no further than the recent treatment of Kevin Clinesmith, disgraced FBI lawyer who knowingly included false information in the Carter Page FISA warrant application. Mr. Clinesmith’s actions resulted in a suspended sentence, and he is eligible for his bar license to be reinstated after a 1 year suspension. The difference between the cases of these two lawyers? The “victim”. Clinesmith’s behavior injured a Trump associate, thus the slap on the wrist. The injury he caused to the venerable court didn’t merit a mention. Donziger on the other hand had the temerity to hold big oil to account, and when that happens, heads will roll. Donziger’s prosecution and sentence is an international embarrassment and should terrify all. Marbury v. Madison has never before been so ironically referenced and it is abundantly clear that we are not a country of laws. We are a country of favoritism, propaganda, and most glaringly hypocrisy.

  7. October 1, 2021 at 12:51

    I support the immediate release of Steven Donziger whose 2 year plus incarceration is highly illegal, contrary to laws of universal justice in every way, and made solely possible by judges who were highly prejudicial and guilty of horrible corruption in this case.

  8. jaycee
    October 1, 2021 at 11:47

    A sad reflection of both the Federalist Society’s ideological capture of the judicial system and a more generalized acceptance of the use of “law fare” as a political weapon and a blunt tool to create negative examples for those who challenge the system. There are so many high-profile cases right now which have these characteristics and are proceeding “unusually” – Assange, Murray, Whanzou, Donziger, Charles Lieber, Alex Saab, etc

  9. October 1, 2021 at 10:11

    Our judicial system has never worked when the powerful have a vested interest, nor has our political system, nor does journalism, all three are just more-in-your-face about their power as pillars of the Deep State after they steam rolled over left and right wing populists during the last electoral cycle while claiming that they, the most successful opponents of democracy are its protectors and saviors.

  10. Fred Mc.
    October 1, 2021 at 10:01

    The US has become the most corrupt nation on earth.

  11. John Ressler
    October 1, 2021 at 08:11

    The details of the case of Steven Donziger are beyond outrageous and leave me with zero respect for our injustice system. I find it revealing that the paper of record has never mentioned this case.

  12. Em
    October 1, 2021 at 07:24

    Oughtn’t we get it by now!
    The paymasters rules apply. In all fields that count, they hold all the power.
    The UN says this, the UN says that!
    A UN Human Rights Expert says: Release Steven Donziger.
    A UN Human Rights Expert condemns Britain for the illegitimate incarceration of Julian Assange.
    The UN condemns Israel for its arbitrary abrogation of Palestinians’ Human Rights.
    Are we still waiting for Godot?

  13. Piotr Berman
    September 30, 2021 at 23:00

    “Contempt of the Court” is an extremely dangerous legal device in Anglo-Saxon legal systems, given judges the power of inventing rules to obey and imposing penalties without limit. Whatever feeble limits exist, they are circumvented, as in the contempt case if Chelsea Manning who served consecutive 3-months terms coupled with enormous fines. Thus we have cases of Manning, Murray and Donziger.

Comments are closed.