ExxonMobil accused of human rights abuse in Kurdistan region
The US energy titan ExxonMobil has been accused of employing local security forces in oil-rich Kurdistan who shot at civilians, killing two in 2013.
According to a complaint filed with the UN Human Rights Council seen by The Sunday Telegraph, the company’s oil activities in the region have also led to the displacement of about 5,000 local people from their homes.
The Texas-based company has previously been accused by the Iraqi government of signing illegal and illegitimate oil deals in Kurdistan.
The document also alleges that between 2011 and 2013, Exxon failed to hold adequate talks with these local groups, in direct contravention of the Iraqi constitution.
Responding to the complaint, Exxon described the allegations as “baseless”.
In a statement, the company said it actively promoted “respect for human rights”, and was in compliance with “all applicable laws and regulations”.
Exxon has operated in Iraq since the 1920s, when it formed the Iraq Petroleum Company alongside Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total.
Much of the complaint, filed by Yazidi politician Nallein Sowilo, details alleged human rights abuses by the governments of Iraq and Kurdistan against the ethnic minority.
It claims that the Kurdish government sold Exxon the rights to drill for oil on Yazidi land, without compensation or consultation.
Hitting back against Exxon’s activities, the local Yazidi communities staged demonstrations against the company, and in one case established a local assembly for the protection of the environment and public rights, according to the complaint.
The assembly was intended to advocate against Exxon’s drilling activities.
In the document, Ms Sowilo outlines an alleged incident in which Exxon’s security contractors shot and killed two civilians.
“In 2013, Exxon employed local security forces which fired upon Yezidi activists, killing two of them,” she wrote.
“The local Kurdish government and Exxon refused to take action. They turned a blind eye to any claim that Yezidis had for their ancestral land and bought land seized from the Yezidis.”
Salma Houerbi, a representative of campaign group Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “We are concerned about these serious allegations. Oil companies must take steps to protect the human rights of people affected by their operations, including from violence or loss of land – especially in conflict zones.”
She added: “Governments also play a crucial role in managing the extractives sector and making sure the rights of indigenous communities are respected.”
Telegraph | 18 January 2020