“Those working to advance accountability and redress for the grave environmental impacts of corporations’ actions should be supported, not placed under house arrest. Amnesty International is calling on Congress to review the case against Steven Donziger immediately and an end to the targeting and restrictions he has faced.”
Amnesty International published a joint public statement on May 6 calling on the United States authorities to end the way in which the justice system is being misused to target and harass Steven Donziger. He has been under pre-trial house arrest since August 2019. A group of human rights and environmental organizations, including Amnesty International, believe that the multiple judicial proceedings against him are a form of reprisal stemming from his human rights work.
Steven Donziger is facing criminal contempt charges over his decision not to comply with a judge’s order to turn over all his electronic devices and access to his accounts to a forensic expert for ultimate review by Chevron, which would have violated the confidentiality of the communications with his clients and would have posed a great risk to their lives.
The judicial proceedings have been marred by a number of flaws, including an apparent lack of impartiality of the court, a disproportionate interference with his right to liberty imposed as a means of circumventing attorney/client privilege, and a deprivation of liberty that has continued beyond the maximum period foreseen by the charges laid against him.
The pre-trial detention follows a long-running campaign of intimidation and harassment against him and other human rights defenders by the oil giant Chevron, and the case has become emblematic of the way in which corporations are employing the courts through strategic litigation to silence human rights defenders.
Steven Donziger’s trial has been re-scheduled for May 10, after having been postponed multiple times during the past year. Despite widespread public interest in the case, the judge presiding over the criminal contempt case has also denied the possibility of following the trial via audio-link, as has been the case in all previous hearings, and the hearing itself will take place in a 12-person courtroom with limited capacity due to COVID-19 regulations, effectively barring independent observers from accessing the court. No justification has been publicly provided as to why audio-link will not be utilized during the trial to ensure the right to a public hearing.
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