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Letter to Chevron Nigeria

Jay Pryor
Managing Director
Chevron Nigeria Ltd
2 Chevron Drive
Lekki Peninsula
Victoria Island

By Fax: 234 1 260 8402

April 7, 2003

Dear Mr. Pryor,

We are writing to express our concern regarding recent violent clashes in Nigeria's Niger delta and to suggest steps that could help prevent such incidents in the future. According to numerous reports from local non-governmental organizations, media, and other sources, since March 13, 2003, clashes around Warri have resulted in the deaths of scores of people and the destruction of dozens of villages. The victims have included members of the Ijaw and Itsekiri communities, and at least twelve members of the government security forces. We offer our sympathy for the victims of the violence, including those among your employees and contractors.

Human Rights Watch is also calling on the Nigerian government to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice and to take immediate measures to prevent a further deterioration of the situation.

Human Rights Watch recognizes that companies should take all reasonable measures to protect their employees and facilities and understands the need for adequate guarantees of security from the government before resuming operations in and around Warri. We commend the positive role companies have played in sheltering local community members and helping to evacuate them as conditions permit. We also believe that companies such as Royal Dutch/Shell and TotalFinaElf should take measures to avoid future violence and promote respect for human rights.

Related Material
Nigeria: Government and Oil Firms Should Act on Delta Violence
Press Release, April 9, 2003

Letter to President Obasanjo
HRW Letter, April 4, 2003

Letter to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria
HRW Letter, April 7, 2003

The O'odua People's Congress: Fighting Violence with Violence
HRW Report, February 2003

Nigeria: Political Violence Increasing Before Elections
HRW Press Release, January 29, 2003

The Niger Delta: No Democratic Dividend
HRW Report, October 2002

Military Revenge in Benue: A Population Under Attack
HRW Report, April 2002

We are extremely concerned by the response of the government security forces that have been sent to restore law and order. There are already troubling reports of indiscriminate reprisal attacks by the combined operation of Nigerian army, navy and police deployed in large numbers to the area. In addition to those killed in inter-communal clashes, dozens of people are reported to have been killed as the security forces fired at several villages. The information available to us indicates that the Ijaw community of Okerenkoko as a whole, including unarmed civilians, has been targeted in reprisal for the death of four soldiers on March 13, which the military has reportedly attributed to armed youths from Okerenkoko. The security forces have been able to act freely as they have sealed off the area, and it has become virtually impossible for human rights investigators, journalists and other independent witnesses to access the affected villages. While the victims of the military operation have been mostly Ijaws, the majority of those killed in the ongoing inter-communal conflict are reported to have been Itsekiris.

In the past, similar military operations sent to quell civil unrest in the Niger Delta (and elsewhere) have led to widespread extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, especially in cases where the security forces were acting in reprisal for the killing of their colleagues. For example, in November 1999, security forces killed hundreds of people in an assault on the community of Odi, in Bayelsa State, after twelve policemen had been killed by an armed gang. Soldiers, naval personnel, and paramilitary Mobile Police deployed across the delta carried out summary executions, assaults and other abuses. Perhaps as many as 2,000 people were killed by the army in this operation, described by a presidential spokesman as "a carefully planned and cautiously executed exercise to rid the society of these criminals." A similar operation took place in the central state of Benue, in October 2001, in which more than two hundred people were killed by the army following the murder of nineteen soldiers. At this writing, none of the individuals responsible for the killings in Odi or Benue have been brought to justice.

Now that the government has deployed its security forces in the Warri area, we strongly encourage companies such as ChevronTexaco, Royal Dutch/Shell, and TotalFinaElf to publicly state that the response of government security forces must not be disproportionate to the threat; that they should only resort to force as absolutely necessary in accordance with international standards; that their operation should be conducted in a manner that ensures respect for due process and fundamental human rights; is focused on arresting and prosecuting the actual perpetrators rather than retaliating against whole communities; and any allegations of human rights violations should be thoroughly and impartially investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Such a statement would be consistent with the commitments the company has made under the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in the Extractive Industries, that state "In their consultations with host governments, Companies should take all appropriate measures to promote observance of applicable international law enforcement principles"; urge investigations of violations; and "actively monitor the status of investigations and press for their proper resolution."

These public steps would demonstrate to the government, the Nigerian public, and the international community, the company's commitment to human rights and could help to prevent further violations in response to current unrest. We also appeal to you to continue raising these issues with the Nigerian authorities and security forces over the coming period, as tensions are likely to increase in the run-up to the forthcoming elections in Nigeria. We are also communicating our concerns to the Nigerian government and pressing them directly to act with restraint and respect human rights as they respond to the tension around Warri.

Arvind Ganesan
Executive Director
Business and Human Rights
Peter Takirambudde
Africa Division

Cc: Stephen Burns
Corporate Social Responsibility

Scott Taylor
General Manager
Global Security