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California Global Corporate
Accountability Project

Forging New Links: Promoting and Protecting
Human Rights and the Environment

January 14, 1999 Roundtable
San Francisco, CA

Biographies of Speakers

Dr. Owens Wiwa, spokesperson for the Ogoni people of Nigeria

  • Dr. Owens Wiwa is the brother of the late Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).  Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed by the Nigerian military government on November 10, 1995.  Owens Wiwa, a medical doctor and a human rights activist, escaped from Nigeria a few days after his brother's execution. In his medical practice, Dr. Wiwa has been a resident in hospitals in Port Harcourt, in Rivers State, and Bori and Taaban, in Ogoni.  In 1990 he established two private rural health centers in Ogoni to care for the needs of the Ogoni People.  In so doing he treated hundreds of Ogoni men, women and children injured as a result of the ongoing military repression in Ogoni. As a political activist, Dr. Wiwa has documented human rights abuses perpetrated upon the Ogoni by the Nigerian Army, as well as environmentally-related diseases among the Ogoni.  He is a member of the Steering Committee of MOSOP and has held other posts in the Ogoni movement, including the chairmanships of the Ogoni Health and Social Welfare Committee and the Ogoni Relief and Rehabilitation Committee. Dr. Wiwa, who recently received his Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, now resides in Canada where he teaches at the University of Toronto. He is married and has one child.

Ka Hsaw Wa, Burmese environmental and human rights activist

  • Ka Hsaw Wa is a co-founder and Director of EarthRights International (ERI). He has been working for human rights and democracy in his home country, Burma, since he fled following a military crackdown in 1988.  Since 1988, he has been documenting human rights and environmental abuses by the Burmese military dictatorship against ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples in Burma where abuses such as extrajudicial killing, torture, rape, forced labor and forced relocation of villages are commonly associated with natural resource exploitation.  As Field Coordinator of ERI, Ka Hsaw Wa has traveled extensively in the resource-rich frontier regions of Burma--often at great risk to his safety and life--and interviewed thousands of witnesses and victims of human rights abuses associated with oil and gas development, logging, fishing and mining.  He has also played an integral role in a groundbreaking lawsuit in which ERI is representing indigenous farmers from Burma against two transnational petroleum corporations for human rights abuses associated with the development of a natural gas pipeline in Burma. The lawsuit, John Doe I et. al. v. Unocal Corporation, et. al. represents the first case in which a US Federal Court has granted jurisdiction over a private corporation for human rights abuses committed in a foreign country. His grassroots experience in Burma and other Southeast Asian countries gives him a unique and personal insight into the connection between human rights and the environment.

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