Dutch court rules lawsuit brought by Nigerian activists’ widows against Shell to be heard in Netherlands

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Article
1 May 2019

Dutch Court to Hear Case vs. Shell Brought by Widows of Hanged Nigeria Activists

Author: Bart H. Meijer, Reuters (UK)

A Dutch court said on Wednesday it has jurisdiction to hear a damages suit brought against Royal Dutch Shell by four widows of activists executed by the Nigerian government in 1995.

In a preliminary decision, judges at the Hague District Court said they would allow the suit to go forward, a rare win in a decades-long legal fight, though the claimants must still prove their case. Shell denies wrongdoing or responsibility.

"The court considers itself capable" of hearing the case, said presiding judge Larissa Alwin, reading the decision of a three-judge panel. "This procedure will continue."

Dutch courts do not award large punitive damages claims, though the case has the potential to embarrass Shell and provide a measure of comfort for the activists' families if it finds the company bears responsibility in their deaths...

Shell, headquartered in the Hague, paid $15.5 million to victims' families in the United States in a 2009 settlement in which it also denied any responsibility or wrongdoing. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected U.S. jurisdiction in 2013.

"I am glad that the (Dutch) court has found it has jurisdiction," said lead plaintiff Esther Kiobel, whose husband Barinem Kiobel was among the executed activists.

"My husband was killed like a criminal. I want him to be exonerated."

Judge Alwin cautioned that the three-judge panel did not agree with assertions by the widows that Shell should have done more to prevent their husbands' executions...

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Article
1 May 2019

Dutch court will hear widows' case against Shell over deaths of Ogoni Nine

Author: Kate Hodal, Guardian

A Dutch court has ruled that it has jurisdiction to determine whether Royal Dutch Shell was complicit in the Nigerian government's execution of the Ogoni Nine, environmental protesters who fought against widespread pollution in the Niger Delta.

In a 50-page ruling hailed by campaigners as an "important precedent" for global human rights cases, judges at The Hague's district court said on Wednesday that they would allow the case to go forward, also indicating that the claimants – widows of four of the activists – would be able to bring further evidence to prove their case.

The ruling, which was partially read out to members of the public, also stipulated that the oil firm must now hand over confidential internal documents.
The four widows accuse Shell of instigating a deadly crackdown by the military government of the time against peaceful protesters in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, the most valuable oil-producing region in Africa.

Nine members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, including its leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed in 1995 by the Nigerian authorities, following a widely discredited trial.

Esther Kiobel, whose husband, Dr Barinem Kiobel, was among the nine executed, said the decision would help exonerate the men.

"We shall prove our case. We have the evidence," she said. "I wouldn't be fighting this fight if I didn't have what it takes. I've been fighting for decades."

It has been a 24-year battle to get even this far. After exhausting all legal recourse in Nigeria, Kiobel first brought a class action against Shell in New York in 2002, where the US supreme court finally ruled in 2013 that the case had been filed in the wrong jurisdiction. A writ was then brought in The Hague, where the oil multinational is based.

Shell denies all allegations that it was complicit in the deaths of the Ogoni Nine or human rights abuses, but it has acknowledged that it was aware Nigeria's military was taking action to protect the company's infrastructure. In 2009, it paid out $15.5m (£11.9m) in an out-of-court settlement to Saro-Wiwa's family and others, but denied any wrongdoing.

 

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Article
1 May 2019

Nigeria: Shell ruling on involvement in Ogoni Nine executions a 'vital step towards justice'

Author: Amnesty International

The District Court of The Hague today issued an interim ruling in the case brought by Esther Kiobel and three other women with regard to Shell’s involvement in the unlawful arrest, detention and execution of their husbands by the Nigerian military.

The court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, that the court does have jurisdiction of the case and that this should not be time barred. It also ruled that Shell should hand over some confidential internal documents to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, and that they would have the opportunity to examine witnesses.

Mark Dummett, Amnesty International’s Head of Business and Human Rights, said:

“This decision marks a vital step towards justice for Esther and the other plaintiffs. It also sets an important precedent for other victims around the world who are seeking to hold powerful corporations to account, and who struggle to access justice.

“We salute Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula. It’s only because of their courage and persistence that we’ve got this far.

“The women believe their husbands would still be alive today were it not for Shell’s relentless pursuit of profit, which encouraged the Nigerian government’s bloody crackdown on protesters even when it knew the deadly human cost. Shell might now face questioning in a court of law about what they knew and how they contributed to this horrifying event in Nigerian history.

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