Exxon has lost the first round in a lawsuit implicating Exxon in the torture of 11 Indonesian villagers in 1997. The villagers claim that Exxon’s Indonesian subsidiary allowed its facilities to be used to torture them by the Indonesian government.
Exxon’s unhappy with the ruling, claiming that it sets a bad precedent that allows American companies to be held responsible for the actions of foreign governments. But the International Rights And Labor Fund says Exxon’s involvement goes further than being coerced into giving up their premises for human-rights abuses: there seems to be strong indication that Exxon was actually paying the Indonesian Military for security during this time, making the Indonesian soldiers responsible Exxon contractors.
But even if that isn’t true, is it truly a bad precedent, to hold American companies that operate and comply with regimes that torture, rape and murder their own people responsible for their complicity? No. Lip service to the dignity of people is cheap and meaningless when a company is unwilling to actually make sacrifices to help achieve that goal.
Exxon had a say in the matter: aware of Indonesia’s human rights abuses, they could have opted to move their business elsewhere. They didn’t — they paid the Indonesian military for security and allowed their premises to be used for torture. Exxon may have kept their hands technically free of blood, but that doesn’t change the fact that they implicitly condoned it and paid for it.