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ExxonMobil rejects Aceh human rights abuse claims

Indonesian soldiers patrol around the Arun gas fields in troubled Aceh  

By CNN's Kirsty Alfredson

ACEH, Indonesia -- ExxonMobil has rejected allegations of torture, murder and genocide in Indonesia by a human rights group that is suing the world's largest oil company of behalf of 11 Achenese civilians.

The International Labor Rights Fund filed the law suit in the U.S. District Court on Wednesday and is seeking damages for alleged injuries "inflicted by members of the Indonesian military hired to perform security services on behalf of defendants" to protect natural gas operations.

The Indonesian government has reportedly received assurances from ExxonMobil that it will restart its Aceh operations, closed down in March because of security concerns.

ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia, Mobil Corporation, and PT Arun LNG Company are also included in the legal action against ExxonMobil Corporation.

Categorical denial

"Exxon Mobil condemns the violation of human rights in any form," spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil Indonesia, Julia Tumengkol, said in a statement to CNN.

"Our company rejects and categorically denies any suggestion or implication that it or its affiliate companies were in any way involved with alleged human rights abuses by security forces in Aceh," she said.

"The reason we were forced to suspend gas production in March was concern for the safety and security of our workers and surrounding communities.

"This will remain the paramount concern of ExxonMobil management," she said.

The military also rejected the claim.

Indonesian Military Spokesman Rear Marshall Graito Husodo told CNN: "Any accusations of human rights violations must be proven.

"Go ahead with the lawsuit," he said. "That's their right."

Greater security

The human rights group claims the 11 people were subjected to serious human rights abuses, including genocide, murder, torture, crimes against humanity, sexual violence, and kidnapping.

The claim is being made by seven men and four women, three of them are also suing on behalf of their dead husbands who they say were killed by the military.

It alleges that if ExxonMobil was not aware of the abuses at the time, it became aware afterwards and continued to use the security services and even demanded greater security.

The claim also states the companies constructed buildings which were used to "interrogate, torture and murder civilians suspected of separatist activities" and provided heavy equipment used to dig mass graves.

On Friday the Jakarta Post reported the U.S. oil company had assured the Indonesian government it would resume operations as long as the government provided better security.

North Aceh, where most of Exxon Mobil's gas operations are located, is one of the regions worst hit by the activities of the separatist Free Aceh Movement.

Over six hundred people have been killed in Aceh this year in separatist violence.

• Welcome to the International Labor Rights Fund
• ExxonMobil

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