Oil Giant 'Guilty' of Crimes against Humanity, Protesters Say -- 05/29/2002

Oil Giant 'Guilty' of Crimes against Humanity, Protesters Say
By Marc Morano Senior Staff Writer
May 29, 2002

Dallas ( - Anti-corporate protesters "convicted" ExxonMobil of "crimes against humanity" Tuesday, in a mock trial held on the eve of the oil giant's annual shareholders' meeting in Dallas.

During the mock trial, protesters compared the company's business practices to those of the Nazis.

The group that staged the "Exxon Mobil Crimes Against Humanity Trial" also plans to rally outside the shareholders' meeting on Wednesday, expressing their anti-corporate sentiments with banners and "street theater."

But one civil right activist who wanted to defend ExxonMobil at the mock trial says he was shut out of the proceeding. He called the protesters anarchists, socialists, and communists of the 1960s variety.

'Rape, Pillage, Plunder, Murder'

The mock trial of ExxonMobil, held at the University of Texas in Dallas, found the company guilty of crimes against humanity for its oil production and exploration in the developing world, including the African nations of Chad and Cameroon.

David Cobb, a Green Party candidate for Texas Attorney General, acted as the mock trial's prosecutor. He accused ExxonMobil of "rape, pillage, plunder and murder" in its dealings with the developing world.

Cobb described ExxonMobil as a company that makes sure "all human opposition to its operations is brutally oppressed."

He compared the oil giant to Adolf Hitler's Nazi party. "Just as the Nazi party had to take over the democratically elected government in Germany to achieve its goals, so too did ExxonMobil take over aspects of our democratically elected government to achieve its ends."

As evidence of the company's repressive nature, Cobb introduced a series of witnesses from foreign countries where ExxonMobil operates refineries. The witnesses, some accompanied by translators, accused ExxonMobil of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses carried out by repressive governments in countries where ExxonMobil conducts business.

One witness, Cut Zahara of Aceh, an Indonesian province, lamented the cultural effects of international development. She explained how painful it was to "watch the children of ExxonMobil play in luxury surroundings, while we the poor villagers had to live around this kind of environment and grow up watching such stark inequality."

'Climate Crimes'

The mock trial also found ExxonMobil guilty of "deliberately deceiving the public by manipulating and misrepresenting solid science on global warming."

In his mock trial summary, "prosecutor" Cobb said the company was guilty of "climate crimes" and was "willing to do anything to exploit nature and oppress other human beings to maximize its profits."

The mock trial also convicted ExxonMobil of environmental racism for allegedly selecting minority areas to locate its oil refineries. Cobb accused ExxonMobil of employing a "ravaging racist policy."

After a brief deliberation, the three-judge panel ruled the company was guilty as charged of "crimes against humanity." The crowd of about 75 protestors erupted in applause and cheers.

The mock judges sentenced ExxonMobil to be broken up into fifty small companies. "All oil and natural gas exploration shall cease, effective today," the judges ruled.

They also stipulated that ExxonMobil spend its $6 billion in assets on "community restoration," "clean air," and funding for "climate-change education." The crowd greeted the sentence with a standing ovation.

Andy Asmus of the anti-corporate protest group Pressure Point told , "the purpose of this trial is to raise public awareness of crimes that ExxonMobil continues to commit against the people of the developing world and in our own country."

Asmus said he would like to see ExxonMobil's corporate charter revoked. The company did not respond to an invitation to defend itself at the trial, according to Asmus.


Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, said he was not impressed by the mock trial. He called the protesters remnants of "the anarchists, socialists, communist types of the 1960's."

Innis said he asked the mock trial's organizers to let him testify on ExxonMobil's behalf, but the request was rebuffed. "They told me the mock trial was scripted already. Apparently I did not fit the script."

The participants in the mock trial are misguided and "arrogant" for opposing economic growth in the developing world, according to Innis.

"It's a pretty arrogant message coming from folk who are from Europe or the U.S. -- both first-class, first-world countries where people are economically comfortable for the most part -- to say to the Third World, 'No you don't have the right to develop the way we have for centuries,'" he said.

Mentioning several ExxonMobil projects currently under way in Africa, Innis said development is the key to bringing a better quality of life to that continent. "There is a crisis in Africa right now in terms of clean water and sanitation," Innis said.

"There is another side to the human rights struggle," he added. And that is "making sure countries in the Third World are not permanently mired in the Third World."

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