8. Allowing use of company assets for abuses

Company facilities and equipment used in the commission of international crimes can create liability for the company, even if it did not authorise or intend such use of those assets.

If companies or individuals provide material assistance to principal perpetrators of international crimes, then the legal doctrine of complicity (aiding or abetting) as a mode of commission, may under certain circumstances implicate those providing material assistance as accessories to the crimes. The International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, art. 25 (3) (c) and (d) establishes the international standard for individual criminal responsibility as an accessory to international crimes. Domestic jurisdictions may apply different standards.

Two former executives of Ford Argentina were convicted in 2018 and sentenced to between 10 adn 12 years in prison for their complicity in crimes against humanity during the military dictatorship in the 1970s. The two were found guilty of supporting the torture of factory employees by the regime security forces by providing information that identified trade unionists and by allowing a detention center to be set up inside the premises of that factory where workers were interrogated, including through the use of torture. For more on the Ford Argentina case see the summary and resources at the relevant page of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

Case 8.1 John Doe I, et. al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et. al

In 2001, eleven Indonesian villagers filed suit against ExxonMobil in US federal court alleging that the company was complicit in murder, torture, sexual abuse and kidnapping at the hands of Indonesian military, allegedly hired by Exxon Mobil to provide security for its natural gas facilities in Aceh.

At the time, Exxon Mobil ran the Arun natural gas facility and pipeline which it operated in Aceh. The plaintiffs allege that Exxon Mobil provided financial and logistical support to Indonesian military units which allegedly committed various crimes. The allegations include torture of the plaintiffs inside the Exxon Mobil compound, in facilities provided by the company for the use of its security forces. Plaintiffs’ claims date from 2001, which they allege was after Exxon Mobil had knowledge of human rights violations by its security forces, and yet had not taken action to remedy the situation.

Plaintiffs alleged that by knowingly providing logistical and other forms of support to the security forces, including the use of company compound and its facilities, the company was complicit in the following wrongful acts:

Murder: A number of the plaintiffs alleged that their husbands were murdered by security forces.

Torture: A number of the plaintiffs alleged they were beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of cruelty.

Kidnapping: A number of the plaintiffs alleged they were forcibly removed by security forces and detained for lengthy periods against their will.

Violence Against Women: a female plaintiff alleged she was beaten and sexually assaulted by member of the security forces.

Torts alleged included: Wrongful death, battery, assault, arbitrary arrest and detention, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, conversion (destruction of property).


In January of 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied ExxonMobil’s appeal of the lower court’s denial of its motion to dismiss. Additionally, the court of appeals denied ExxonMobil’s petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the lower court to dismiss the claims against the company. These rulings followed on the March 2, 2006 decision by a US federal judge to deny a motion to dismiss filed by the defendant, and ordered the parties to proceed toward discovery in this case. Previously, on October 14, 2005, a US federal judge had ruled that the plaintiffs’ case may proceed on District of Columbia state law claims (which include wrongful death, theft by coercion and assault and battery), but dismissed the plaintiffs’ federal claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.

Sources of this summary

John Doe I, et. al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et. al. (Case No.: 01CV01357 (D.D.C. 2001)) Business and International Crimes

The Business and Human Rights web site contains links to court documents and related statements from both sides in the suit.