Human rights violations in the ChevronTexaco case, Ecuador: Cultural genocide?
Berti Suman, Anna
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This article discusses the Chevron contamination case in Ecuador with the aim of illustrating the scope of the human rights violations suffered by the affected indigenous communities. The contribution is inserted into a broader debate on the need for business to respect human rights, in a society where profit seems to be corporations’ only concern. The facts of the case and the damage to the indigenous peoples’ rights and culture are presented. The legal developments of the case are illustrated, with the focus falling on Chevron’s delaying strategy before the judicial system. The risk of new forms of colonisation hidden in cases like the Chevron Ecuador case is highlighted. When threats resembling colonisation are posed to the rights, culture and dignity of the local inhabitants, ex post reparations seem inadequate. However, participatory processes of defining the remediation together with the affected communities may restore some of the values lost. The analysis of the facts leads to the assertion that the Chevron Ecuador case could be regarded as cultural genocide and even as a crime against humanity. The supposed reasons that induced the multinational to intentionally ‘destroy’ the local culture are outlined. Numerous international treaties to which Ecuador is a party support this statement. Moreover, it is suggested that the case should be considered not only from the perspective of the Inter-American system, but also from the European Union’s normative framework. EU action on behalf of the Ecuadorian affected people is presented as advisable and recommendations on possible forms of this action are highlighted. Key words: environmental crime; indigenous rights; human rights violations; oil exploitation; cultural genocide; United Nations system; European Union system