Halliburton to Pay 1.1 Billion in Damages for Its Role in Largest Oil Spill in U.S. History

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

Washington D.C., United States of America – Halliburton, North America’s largest oilfield services provider has reportedly reached a $1.1 billion settlement for the majority of claims related to its role in contributing to the BP (formally British Petroleum) Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The settlement, which includes legal fees, was announced on Tuesday and would be paid in three instalments into a trust until appeals are resolved over the next two years. The settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Halliburton said. The company announced the settlement on their website in broad terms without providing any statements form company executives.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, also known as the Macondo blowout, caused the largest oil spill in United States history effecting 2,500 to 68,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. The spill called into question the safety of the controversial practice of deep sea oil exploration.

The settlement would protect Halliburton from certain punitive damages if the court were to rule later that the company had been negligent or ‘grossly negligent’ for its role in contributing to the blowout, the company’s Chief Financial Officer Mark McCollum said. Following the announcement Halliburton’s shares were down 0.18 percent at $67.49 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. “We think this is a smart move by Halliburton,” said Stewart Glickman, an equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ. “While state claims by Louisiana and Alabama remain, we think this trims legal overhang.” Rig contractor Transocean, which employed nine of the 11 workers killed on the rig, agreed to pay $1.4 billion in settlement last year, while BP has paid about $28 billion so far.

The deal comes as Halliburton, BP and Transocean await a ruling form United States District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans on the degree to which each actor was negligent in the explosion and resulting oil spill. By settling, Halliburton would avoid the risk of higher damages if it is found to be grossly negligent. “This lifted the uncertainty and eliminated the impact of a potential negative ruling from Judge Barbier,” said Tom Claps, a litigation analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.

Halliburton was BP’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded on Earth Day 2010. The explosion killed 11 workers and triggered the largest oil spill in United States history, spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. The company was responsible for the placement of centralizers that are intended to help stabilize the well bore during the cementing process. Halliburton had earlier blamed BP’s decision to use only six centralizers – to save “time and money” – for the blowout that caused the explosion and massive spill.

David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, said that Halliburton does not admit any liability in the settlement. However, he argues that the company never have agreed to pay more than a billion dollars unless there was substantial evidence that it was negligent.” The oil spill cost billions of dollars in economic damages for Gulf residents and the regional economy and threatened critical ecosystems in the region. The long-term economic and environmental impacts of the spill remain unclear.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – Halliburton to Pay $1.1bn for US Gulf Spill – 2 September 2014

Reuters – Halliburton to Settle U.S. Gulf Spill Claims For $1.1 Billion – 2 September 2014

The New York Times – Halliburton to Pay $1.1 Billion to Settle Damages – 2 September 2014

The Wall Street Journal – Halliburton to Settle Deepwater Horizon Claims For $1.1 Billion – 2 September 2014

Maduro Enraged by Negative Television Portrayal

By Delisa N. Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – While there hasn’t been much uproar in North America concerning the new TNT spy drama “Legends”, Venezuelan officials are enraged.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Photo courtesy of Telegraph Co. UK.

Venezuelan officials are denouncing the show for portraying the socialist government stockpiling chemical weapons such as nerve gas to dispel protesters.  

The show has caused such a rift in the South American country that the telecommunications commission opened an investigation on Tuesday into the series.  The episode in dispute details a character that fingers President Maduro and the socialist party as purchasers of chemical weapons.  On Monday, the script was called hostile and ‘imperialist’ by the Minister of Information, Delcy Rodriguez.

The shows producer, Fox 21, has publicly apologized and detailed that the show was just fictional.

“The producers did not intend to imply that the show was reporting any actual events when it mentioned President Maduro’s name.  We sincerely apologize to President Maduro,”  stated the company.  

The episode in question is titled “Lords of War”, during which the main character intensely questions a terrorist about who was purchasing his chemical weapons.  After a drawn out bout the terrorist leaks the name of President Maduro and the PSUV (the made up socialist party acronym).  The terrorist goes on to say that the President and his socialist group are worried about civil unrest in Venezuela.

This past spring Venezuela was often in the news due to many of the country’s peaceful protests turned violent.  While President Maduro has been cited for violating several human rights in his harsh tactics to quell protestors, chemical weapons were never used.

On her personal twitter page, Rodriguez denounced the script, stating the brief scene had  “lies and manipulation” that were a part of a “Hollywood-type script typical in its imperialist actions against legitimate governments.”

The show, “Legends”, debuted in August only scoring a 58% on “Rotten Tomatoes.”  The show stars Sean Bean, who was famously killed off in the first season of “Game of Thrones”, as an undercover FBI agent.

The investigation currently holds no clear path, and it is unclear what the governments investigation will consist of.  On Tuesday, critics of the socialist government released 20-second versions of the clip with the heading, “the scene Maduro doesn’t want you to see.”

Venezuela has been in the eye of the US entertainment industry a few times before.  Other quells with the entertainment sector include a video game claimed to seek overthrowing former President Hugo Chavez, and portrayals of the country as a lawless place for escaped criminals on other network dramas.

So far no official repercussions have followed these incidents.

For more information please see,

ABC News – Venezuela Rails Against Portrayal in US Spy Drama – 2 September 2014

the guardian – Venezuela Outcry as US Drama Maligns Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro – 2 September 2014

The Washington Times – Venezuela Rails Against Portrayal in US Spy Drama – 2 September 2014

Reuters – Venezuela Blasts U.S. TV Show Over Maduro Nerve Gas Plot – 2 September 2014

Ceasefire Reached in Mozambique

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Managing Editor

MAPUTO, Mozambique – After two years of sporadic armed clashes the government of Mozambique has signed a ceasefire agreement with the former rebel group Renamo ahead of October’s presidential elections. The deal followed two years of clashed between armed members of the Renamo group and members of the government’s armed forces.

Government forces overran the Renamo camp in Mozambique’s Gorongosa district in August (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Renamo party leader Afonso Dhlakama, who has been hiding in the remote Gorongosa mountain region in the central Sofala province for nearly a year, did not travel to the capital to sign the ceasefire himself, despite previously promising he would attempt the signing once his party reached a final agreement with the government.

The ceasefire was signed last Sunday night in the capital Maputo between Renamo’s chief negotiator Saimon Macuiane and the government after almost a year of negotiations. “We have begun a new era for the country,” Mr. Macuiane said, describing the ceasefire as an “important step towards national reconciliation… and a durable peace. “The announcement came after the government released Renamo prisoners captured in recent fighting as part of negations process.

Afonso Dhlakama returned to the bush in 2012, backing out of the peace treaty he signed two decades earlier with the ruling Frelimo party. Shortly after, in 2013 Renamo withdrew from a peace deal that was signed more than 20 years ago ending a protracted civil war beginning a series of low-level armed clashes between members of the Renamo group and government forces. In 2012 the Renamo Party leader. Men believed to be members of the formal rebel movement have been attacking buses, cars and trucks on the country’s main highway since April of last year.

Despite reaching a ceasefire agreement, Renamo and the Mozambique government will continue the negotiation process as not all points of concern have been settled including “economic questions” and the status of the Renamo Party’s appointees into security structures.

The agreement comes ahead of the nation’s presidential eleactions which are set for October 15. Whoever wins the upcoming elections will face the chaellenging task of mainting the peace-proccess as well as negoationing major coal and offshore natural gas investment projects that have the potential to bring billions of dollars of investmennts to one of Africa’s poorest countries.

For more information please see:

The Economist – Politics This Week – 30 August 2014

Yahoo News – Mozambique ceasefire a beginning, not the end, say analysts – 26 August 2014

Al Jazeera – Mozambique’s government and Renamo sign truce – 25 August 2014

BBC News – Mozambique rivals agree ceasefire ahead of elections – 24 August 2014

Class-A War Criminals Honored by Japan

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TOKYO, Japan – A never ending war has stirred controversy again. Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, sent cabinet ministers to Yasukuni Shrine to mourn the dead, a notorious temple where convicted “Class A” war criminals are included. PM Abe himself did not visit the shrine, but sent ritual offering instead.

Friday, August 15th, marked the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II. About eighty Japanese lawmakers and two cabinet ministers visited Yasukuni angering neighboring victim countries of the war, such as South Korea and China. Yoshitaka Shindo, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, was one of them, and he was not worried about diplomatic tensions that would be caused by his visit. “Many valuable lives perished in the war. I came here to pray so that something like this will never happen again,” he said.

Yasukuni Shrine lists the names, origins, and birthdates of the dead, approximately 2.5 million including soldiers and civilians. Japanese politicians regularly visit Yasukuni not only to mourn the dead, but also to attract the attention of Japan’s conservative voters. Every year, diplomatic disputes arise among the far-east Asian countries because 1,000 convicted war criminals are buried together in Yasukuni including fourteen “Class A” war criminals. Japanese right-wing voters argue that the visits are merely a non-political way to pay respects to the dead. South Korea and China consider them as glorifying Japan’s militarism at the time of the war.

Men dressed as Japanese imperial army soldiers of World War 2 marching at the Yasukuni Shirine on the anniversary day (REUTERS)

Some world media outlets have focused on the fact that PM Abe did not visit the temple and proposed that his absence was a diplomatic gesture to the neighboring countries. The Washington Post delivered an article under the title, “Japan’s Abe avoids Yasukuni Shrine in hopes of meeting with China’s Xi Jinping.” A German media outfit, Deutsche Welle, had an interview with Shihoko Goto, an analyst of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, who stated that Abe’s decision not to visit Yasukuni was “a step in the right direction.” According to Goto, his decision “doesn’t mean he won’t consider visiting the controversial shrine again someday in the future.”

The tension between these countries was heated even after the anniversary day as a Japanese media outlet, Asahi Shimbun, revealed on August 27th that PM Abe sent a written message to the war criminals earlier this year. Abe wrote a message for a ceremony honoring the war criminals, stating that they “sacrificed their souls to become the foundation of the fatherland.”

A South Korean Foreign Minister spokesperson denounced Abe’s message at a recent press briefing, saying “the Prime Minister’s recent words and behavior is to negate the postwar order and make us suspect reflections and apology Japan has shown over the war of aggression and colonial rule in the past.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said “the Japanese government needs to sincerely reflect on its history of aggression and make a clean break with militarism that provides an important foundation for Japan to rebuild and develop relations with its Asian neighbors after the war.”

 

For more information please see:

BBC – Japanese ministers in Yasukuni shrine visit – 15 August 2014

The Boston Globe – Asia’s never-ending war – 20 August 2014

Deutsche Welle – Fraught with controversy – Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine

The Telegraph – Yasukuni Shrine: the 14 ‘Class A’ war criminals honoured by Japan

The New York Times – Japan’s Premier Supported Ceremony for War Criminals – 27 August 2014

Global Post – S. Korea denounces Abe for message to war-related memorial service – 28 August 2014

The Guardian – China criticises Japan after Shinzo Abe honours war criminals as martyrs – 28 August 2014

New Restrictive Abortion Law In Louisiana Is Blocked By Judge

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

 WASHINGTON, D.C., United States Of America –  A federal judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of a restrictive new abortion law in Louisiana. The law signed by Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, requires doctors who perform abortion procedures to have admitting privileges to a hospital within a 30-mile radius of their clinics.

Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, signed into law a measure which would pre quire all doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (Photo courtesy of Reuters).

Lawyers and advocates in the region have disagreed as to whether or not the judge’s order affects the physicians at all five of the abortion clinics in the state of Louisiana, or only the three clinics whose lawsuit challenges the measure. A lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights claims that doctors have not been given enough time to secure privileges at local hospitals, and thus all five abortion clinics in the state would likely be forced to close.

Judge John w. deGravelles of the Middle District of Louisiana said that the law will take effect on Monday, 1 September 2014. However, doctors should not be penalized for breaking the law while the challenge to the law is heard. Additionally, deGravelles wrote that the Board of Medical Examiners made no promises regarding the prosecution of doctors who violated the law starting Monday. Doctors who violate the ruling risk fines of up to $4,000 and the loss of their license to practice. A status conference will be called within 30 days from the enactment of the law to check on the progress of the plaintiffs’ applications.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the many groups representing two Louisiana clinics and the doctors practicing there, stated, “Today’s ruling ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights.”

Laws regarding abortion clinics have become a hot topic in the recent months. Louisiana is among 11 states that have passed similar laws. Additionally, courts have recently ruled measures put in place in Alabama and Mississippi to be unconstitutional.

 

For more information, please see the following:

BUSINESS INSIDER – Judge Blocks Law That Could Close All Louisiana Abortion Clinics – 31 August 2014.

REUTERS – Judge Temporarily Blocks Law That Could Close All Louisiana Abortion Clinics – 31 August 2014.

NEW YORK TIMES – Judge Blocks Abortion Law in Louisiana – 31 August 2014.

NPR – Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Abortion Law – 31 August 2014.