March 19, 2003
In a 110-page ruling issued today, Judge Allen Schwartz of the US
Federal District Court, Southern District of New York, has thrown out
Talisman Energy’s motion to dismiss the suit brought against them on
behalf of southern Sudanese plaintiffs.
These plaintiffs—from the oil regions in which Talisman Energy has,
until very recently, been operating—have suffered devastating losses
of life and livelihood. Judge Scwartz’s ruling of today gives promise
that Talisman will be obliged to pay hundreds of millions of dollars of
(very partial) recompense.
This is an historic decision, rendered under the terms of the US Alien
Tort Claims Act. It finds unambiguously that “corporations can violate
international law,” thus denying Talisman Energy’s legal team of its key
Understandably, Talisman has had no public response; but there can be no
denying that this stinging legal defeat is of immense consequence, and
may represent the greatest cost in assessing the financial meaning of
Talisman’s brutally rapacious presence in Sudan.
The case now moves to the discovery phase in US Federal District Court;
it is here that Talisman’s vulnerability is greatest. The reckoning is
far from completed.
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