“We have full confidence in the Ecuadorian judicial system, as does Chevron.”
-Karen Hinton, spokesperson for the Amazon Defense Coalition.
Not true. Chevron has consistently asserted that the case has involved improper complicity between the plaintiffs and Ecuador’s executive branch and other legal irregularities. And Chevron has asserted that it cannot get a fair trial.
On August 31, 2009, Chevron released a series of videos that depicted Judge Juan Nunez taking part in improper meetings. In the videos, the judge confirms that he will rule against Chevron and that appeals by the energy company will be denied — even though the trial is ongoing and evidence is still being received.
In every country where the rule of law prevails, a judge who has done what Judge Nunez is seen doing in the videotapes would be dismissed from the case and his previous rulings would be annulled.
There are clear and longstanding problems with the judicial system in Ecuador which are widely recognized by international legal experts.
Ecuador’s Judiciary: The Reality:
Let us take a closer look at the judiciary being defended by the Amazon Defense Coalition. In a 2009 statement, the U.S. State Department, Investment Climate said, “Corruption is a serious problem in Ecuador. The courts are often susceptible to outside pressure and bribes. Neither Congressional oversight nor internal judicial branch mechanisms have shown a consistent capacity to effectively investigate and discipline allegedly corrupt judges.”
Additionally, the 2008 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Ecuador 151st out of the 180 countries surveyed for the Corruption Perceptions Index, with a score of 2.0. This score is on par with the Republic of Congo (1.9, 158/180), and worse than Cuba (4.3, 65/180) and Iran (2.3, 141/180).
Ecuador’s Judiciary: The Deterioration:
A series of well-documented government decisions have weakened the country’s judicial system since November 2004. The problems accelerated when Congress initiated impeachment proceedings against the President at the time (President Gutierrez). In response, President Gutierrez orchestrated a new Congressional majority that halted the impeachment proceedings and then purged the Supreme Court of Justice, the Constitutional Tribunal, and the Electoral Court. The purgings were widely criticized by the international community, including United Nations (also here), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the International Bar Association.
When President Correa came to power in January 2007, he strengthened the government’s grip on the judiciary even further. Recently, Ecuador’s el Universo newspaper reported that three judges were dismissed because they ruled against the interests of the state and in favor of the construction company Andrade Gutiérrez. Meanwhile, it has been reported that judges of Ecuador’s National Court of Justice are considering a criminal claim against Ecuador’s prosecutor general Washington Pesántez for his ongoing interference in the judicial system.
It’s curious that American trial lawyers pursuing this case against Chevron have full confidence in a judiciary that is reported to be heavily controlled by the country’s executive branch.
Perhaps it’s because the government is strongly supporting the case against Chevron.
In this environment, its clear Chevron cannot get a fair trial.