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Lawsuit Against Shell for Human Rights Violations in Nigeria to Proceed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5th, 2002

contact:
Richard Herz (202) 466-5188 ext. 4
Marco Simons (202) 466-5188 ext. 5
EarthRights International
www.earthrights.org

Lawsuit Against Shell for Human Rights Violations in Nigeria to Proceed

New York -- A U.S. Federal Court has ruled that a civil lawsuit charging
multinational oil giant Shell with complicity in human rights violations
will go forward. The ruling in Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. by Judge
Kimba Wood held that Shell Transport and Trading Company and Royal Dutch
Petroleum Company can be held liable in the U.S. for cooperating in the
persecution and execution of environmental activists in Nigeria.
"This ruling means that the families of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni
colleagues may yet get some measure of justice for the unlawful executions
and other abuses in which Shell was complicit," said Richard Herz, an
attorney with EarthRights International, a non-profit group that is
co-counsel in the case. "More broadly, it sends a strong message to other
multinational companies that they cannot participate in egregious human
rights abuses with impunity."

Despite widespread international protest, noted Nigerian environmentalist
and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, youth leader John Kpuinen and seven other Ogoni
activists were hanged by the Nigerian military government on November 10,
1995. The "Ogoni Nine" had opposed Shell's pollution and oil development in
the Niger Delta. In his last statement to the military tribunal that
sentenced him to death, Saro-Wiwa said "Shell is here on trial. The Company
has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come."

Fulfilling this prophecy, the court refused to dismiss the lawsuit brought
by surviving relatives of Saro-Wiwa and Kpuinen, which alleges that Shell
played a role in the execution of the two men as well as other violations.
The court also refused to dismiss similar claims against Brian Anderson, the
former head of Shell's Nigerian subsidiary, and claims by an additional
plaintiff, who remains anonymous for her safety, alleging that she was
beaten and shot while peacefully protesting bulldozing of her land by Shell.

In denying Shell's motion to dismiss the case, the court found that the
alleged actions of Shell and Anderson constituted participation in crimes
against humanity, torture, summary execution, arbitrary detention, and other
violations of international law. The court also found that Anderson could
be sued under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows victims of
torture to sue the perpetrators in federal court. Finally, the ruling
allows the plaintiffs' claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations (RICO) Act to proceed, finding that plaintiffs' allegations
that Shell acted in concert with the Nigerian military would constitute
racketeering. The case now proceeds to discovery, where plaintiffs will
have the opportunity to interview Anderson and other Shell employees, and to
review their documents.

The plaintiffs are represented by New York-based Center for Constitutional
Rights (CCR), Washington, D.C.-based EarthRights International, Seattle
University law professor Julie Shapiro, and Paul Hoffman. Judith Chomsky, a
CCR Cooperating Attorney, commented today, "Shell had direct involvement in
human rights violations against the Ogoni people. Any company that profits
from crimes against humanity should be brought to justice wherever they are.
When they do business in the U.S., they should be made to answer for their
actions in U.S. courts." CCR attorney Jennie Green added, "Human rights law
doesn't apply only to governments and individuals; multinational
corporations also must be held accountable when they violate such
fundamental international legal principles."

###



Katie Redford, Esq.
EarthRights International
2012 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036
tel: 202 466 5188
fax: 202 466 5189
www.earthrights.org
 
 

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