Doe v. Unocal

Doe v. Unocal was a groundbreaking case that resulted in compensation for victims of security forces working on a natural gas pipeline project in military-ruled Burma (Myanmar). The case was brought by EarthRights International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and several private law firms.

The plaintiffs alleged that they suffered forced labor, rape, torture, and murder at the hands of Burmese army soldiers who were hired to protect the Yadana gas pipeline by Unocal and its partners in the gas project. In 1997, the Unocal case became the first case in which a federal court allowed an ATS lawsuit against a corporation to proceed. The court later cited evidence that “Unocal knew that the military had a record of committing human rights abuses; that the Project hired the military to provide security for the Project, a military that forced villagers to work and entire villages to relocate for the benefit of the Project; that the military, while forcing villagers to work and relocate, committed numerous acts of violence; and that Unocal knew or should have known that the military did commit, was committing and would continue to commit these tortious acts.” The court also concluded that "the evidence does suggest that Unocal knew that forced labor was being utilized and that [Unocal and Total, a co-venturer in the Yadana project] benefited from the practice."

In 2005, shortly before trial, the case ended in a confidential settlement that compensated the plaintiffs. Additionally, the settlement funds enabled the plaintiffs to develop programs to improve living conditions, health care and education and protect the rights of people from the pipeline region.

Read more about the Unocal case on the EarthRights International website.