Royal Dutch Shell to Go to Trial for Complicity in Torture and Murder of Nigerian Protesters
NEW YORK - Yesterday, Judge Kimba Wood of the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of New York set a trial date of February 9, 2009 for
a human rights and racketeering case against the Royal Dutch Shell
company (Shell) and the head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson.
The case was first filed in 1996. The judge rejected Shell's attempt to
file additional legal motions to postpone a trial date.
"We are looking forward to finally bringing Shell into court, where we
will prove their role in the torture and murder of our clients and
their pattern of human rights abuses," said CCR attorney Jennie Green.
"It's time for our clients and their families to see justice."
Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Wiwa v. Anderson
are two lawsuits filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
and co-counsel from EarthRights International on behalf of relatives of
murdered activists who were fighting for human rights and environmental
justice in Nigeria. The cases charge the corporation and this key
official for their complicity in the November 10, 1995 hanging of Ken
Saro-Wiwa and other leaders in the nonviolent opposition to Shell's
pattern of human rights abuses and environmental destruction: John
Kpuinen, Saturday Doobee, Daniel Gbokoo, Felix Nuate, and Dr. Barinem
Kiobel. The cases also include charges for the torture, detention, and
forced exile of Mr. Saro-Wiwa's brother, Dr. Owens Wiwa, and Michael
Tema Vizor; and the shooting of Karololo Kogbara and Uebari N-nah in
two attacks on peaceful protestors.
Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jr., the son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, issued the following statement on behalf of his family:
The family and all those who have had their human
rights abused in resource bearing communities are humbled and greatly
encouraged by this news. It is a relief that after 12 years we have
finally vindicated Ken Saro-Wiwa's insistence that Shell will one day
have its day in court. We hope, ultimately, that this will reinforce
the message that non-violence and the rule of law are the foundations
of true justice, especially at a time when the unacceptable legacy of
injustice poses a clear and present danger to lives, the environment
and energy security in the Niger Delta and around the globe. We welcome
the decision of the judge and would like to express our sincere
gratitude to the Center for Constitutional Rights and other people of
conscience who have stayed the course.
The defendants are charged with complicity in human rights abuses
against the Ogoni people in Nigeria, including summary execution,
crimes against humanity, torture, inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrest,
wrongful death, assault and battery, and infliction of emotional
distress. The cases were brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and
the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The case against Royal
Dutch/Shell also alleges that the corporation violated the Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Nigeria has been chief among Shell's assets for many years. Critics
charge that with the aim of production at any cost, regardless of the
damage to the surrounding people and land, Shell disrupted thousands of
lives and wreaked havoc on the environment. In the early 1990's, the
people of Nigeria began to protest. Shell made payments and provided
arms to security forces that they knew to be abusive to local
communities. The military government violently repressed the
demonstrations and arrested and bribed witnesses. Nine leaders of the
demonstrations were murdered, including the aforementioned well-known
activist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa.
In addition to CCR and ERI, the plaintiffs are represented by CCR
cooperating attorneys Judith Brown Chomsky, Anthony DiCaprio and Beth
Stephens, and Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and
For complete pdf's of the legal briefs and further background information, click here.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.