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Steven Donziger

HRD, lawyer

Steven Donziger is a US-based environmental lawyer. He was part of a legal team that earned a major environmental judgment against Chevron Corporation on behalf of Indigenous and local communities in Ecuador. Chevron responded with a civil racketeering lawsuit and a massive defamation media campaign targeting Steven and his clients. In 2019, Chevron obtained a judicial order requiring Steven to give Chevron access to his computers and online accounts, which contained decades of attorney-client communications. When Steven refused, insisting that he be allowed to appeal the order, Chevron engineered the filing of criminal contempt of court charges, and, when the public prosecutor refused to prosecute the case, the unprecedented appointment of a private prosecutor drawn from a law firm Chevron has worked with in the past. Even though the charges were at the misdemeanor level, the private prosecutor used Steven’s decades of service in Ecuador to argue that he was a flight risk. Steven was required to wear an ankle bracelet and confine himself to his two-bedroom apartment for nearly three years of pre-trial litigation. Steven was denied a jury but sentenced to the maximum sentence possible for a non-jury offense, which he served in part in a federal penitentiary and in part at home. Although he has continued to speak out on behalf of his Ecuadorian clients and other causes, the US court continues to hold his passport, preventing him from traveling for work or other advocacy.

HRDS in the USA have been subjected to acts of harassment, intimidation, death threats, stigmatisation, and restrictions have been placed on their freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Defamation and criminalisation of humanitarian activity is increasing along the Mexico-US border, and HRDs have been detained, harassed and criminalised for the provision of humanitarian aid, including distributing food, water and medical supplies, and operating emergency shelters for migrant families.