Occidental Petroleum Not Liable in Colombian Army Killings

A federal appeals court has upheld dismissal of claims that Occidental Petroleum Corp. should be held liable for the deaths of three union leaders in Colombia, killed by the Colombian National Army’s 18th Brigade in 2004.

The 9th  U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the claim that an Occidential subsidiary in Colombia had operational control of the 18th Brigade and could be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute and California law.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011 in Los Angeles, by family members of those killed raised political questions that cannot be resolved by the judiciary, the ruling states.

The court concluded that the claims were bound to the political question of the propriety of the U.S. decision to provide $99 million in training to the 18th Brigade at the same time and same purpose as Occidental allegedly provided $6.3 million.

The families’ lawsuit sought to hold the military liable for alleged war crimes and alleged human rights abuses.

The lawsuit claimed Occidental knew or should have known that for years prior to the murders there were widespread human rights violations committed by the Colombian national army, particularly the 18th Brigade.

“As the political question doctrine bars us from considering the merits of plaintiffs’ claims, the district court’s dismissal of their action is affirmed,” the panel wrote in the unsigned opinion.

Case:  Saldana v. Occidental Petroleum, No. 12-55484


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