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New Letter to United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Demands Accountability

for Arbitrary Detention of Steven Donziger


New Letter to United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Demands Accountability for Arbitrary Detention of Steven Donziger

May 31, 2023

New York - A new letter sent to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD), signed by Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) along with other prominent U.S. jurists, legal academics, and NGOs, provides an update regarding Steven Donziger’s circumstances after the UN WGAD issued its opinion in September 2021, which found that the U.S. judiciary subjected Donziger to arbitrary detention, in violation of numerous provisions of international law.

On September 6, 2021, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued Opinion No. 24/2021 which found that the “deprivation of liberty of Steven Donziger” was “arbitrary” and “in contravention of articles 2, 3, 7, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (1), 9, 14 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The opinion further requested “the Government of United States to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Donziger without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The UN WGAD expressed alarm at the "staggering" level of judicial bias displayed by the United States judiciary against Donziger, particularly in response to his tireless human rights advocacy in Ecuador.

To date, there has been no response from the U.S. Government to the UN Working Group. The United States is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - binding international law.

Since the UN WGAD opinion, Steven Donziger was detained for 993 days, including nearly 45 days in federal prison and time spent in a locked halfway house. Even after the civil and criminal contempt charges stemming from the SLAPP suit against Donziger have been resolved, his passport is still in the custody of the clerk of the Southern District of New York, making it impossible for him to leave the country, in further violation of international norms and his human rights.

The United States Supreme Court declined certiorari on Donziger’s case where two justices wrote a blistering dissent, stating: “Our Constitution does not tolerate what happened here.” In addition. Chevron is still trying to access Donziger’s confidential case file and he continues to be on the receiving end of harassment from Chevron operatives.

The letter to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urges the UN Working Group to review ongoing attacks on Donziger, assess the fairness of his trial and consider updating their 2021 opinion, and demand the U.S. Government respond to these serious violations of international law against a human rights defender.

Steven Donziger, a steadfast advocate, has dedicated over two decades to fighting Chevron on behalf of Indigenous and rural communities living in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In 2010, Donziger played a pivotal role in securing a landmark $9.5 billion judgment in favor of Indigenous and rural plaintiffs affected by Chevron's devastating oil pollution. The Ecuadorian courts found Chevron guilty of perpetrating one of the most documented severe environmental crimes in history, deliberately dumping a shocking 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into Indigenous territories in the Amazon.

Despite being ordered by the Ecuadorian courts to pay the $9.5 billion judgment, Chevron callously sold its assets and fled the country, evading its legal obligations. As a result, over 30,000 individuals continue to suffer without receiving any compensation for the immense harm caused to their communities. The funds from the judgment are crucial for rebuilding the land and addressing the long-lasting impact of Chevron's pollution.

Water Protector Legal Collective is honored to stand alongside Steven Donziger in this fight. Donziger lives under constant threat due to his unwavering commitment to seeking justice. We stand with Donziger and will continue to work to protect those fighting for justice against profit-driven giants. We have worked to support Donziger’s legal and advocacy efforts since 2020 and joined Donziger's appellate team in 2021.

About WPLC:

Water Protector Legal Collective emerged from the struggle to protect Water Protectors at Standing Rock, defending sacred lands and advocating for environmental justice. Our mission is to provide legal support and advocacy for Indigenous peoples and Original Nations, the Earth, and climate justice movements. As such, we will continue working to protect those who stand up for future generations, especially those on the frontlines challenging extractive industry giants. To learn more, visit Support our work:

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