Donziger asks judge to take into account UN experts’ conclusion on “arbitrary” detention
- Lawyer struck off the bar Steven Donziger will be sentenced on Friday
- Donziger, whose multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Chevron was found to be tainted with fraud, has been placed under house arrest in a related contempt case
(Reuters) – US lawyer struck off the bar Steven Donziger, who faces conviction on Friday for criminal contempt resulting from his decades-long legal battle with Chevron Corp, is asking a Manhattan federal judge to consider a new finding of independent United Nations experts that his house arrest violates international human rights law.
In an opinion first released Thursday, a panel of five international jurists concluded that Donziger’s house arrest for more than two years in his criminal case violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a landmark pact that guarantees fundamental freedoms, to which the United States is a party.
Human rights experts, appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, said “the appropriate remedy” would be “to grant (Donziger) an enforceable right to reparation”.
Donziger, struck off the New York bar last year, was indicted in August 2019 with criminal contempt for, among other things, failing to return his computer, phones and other electronic devices. U.S. Senior District Judge Loretta Preska has placed him in house arrest since August 2019 to address concerns about the risk of absconding. The judge found him guilty in May of “repeatedly and willfully” defying court orders.
His criminal case stems from post-judgment orders in a civil case in which a Manhattan judge in 2014 banned the US from enforcing a $ 9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp that Donziger had won. in an Ecuadorian court. The judge said the Ecuadorian judgment was obtained through corruption, fraud and extortion.
Donziger told Reuters on Thursday he would ask the Justice Department to implement the UN experts’ findings.
“There are going to be damages that we are going to ask the US government for for this unlawful deprivation of liberty,” he said.
Donziger’s lawyers include Martin Garbus of Offit Kurman.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rita Glavin, a private lawyer who has been appointed to prosecute the case, did not immediately comment.
The UN expert opinion says the United States broke international law by placing Donziger under house arrest for about four times the maximum six-month sentence he faces in his contempt case. His home confinement in New York has been extended by repeated postponements of his trial due to the coronavirus pandemic and issues with his legal representation.
Despite the findings of civil fraud against him, Donziger maintained the support of some environmental and rights groups. Amnesty International asked independent UN experts earlier this year to seek Thursday’s opinion, which the judge in the Donziger case is not required to review.
Donziger asked for time served before Friday’s sentencing.
The case is United States v. Donziger, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1: 19-cr-00561.
For the United States: Rita Glavin of Glavin PLLC; and Brian Maloney of Seward & Kissel
For Donziger: Martin Garbus from Offit Kurman; and Ronald Kuby
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