For Immediate Release
Settlement Reached in Human Rights Cases Against Royal Dutch/Shell
WASHINGTON - Today, the parties in Wiwa v. Shell agreed to settle human
rights claims charging the Royal Dutch/Shell company, its Nigerian subsidiary,
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell Nigeria), and the former
head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson, with complicity in the torture,
killing, and other abuses of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and other non-violent
Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta.
The settlement, whose
terms are public, provides a total of $15.5 million. These funds will
compensate the 10 plaintiffs, who include family members of the deceased
victims; establish a Trust intended to benefit the Ogoni people; and cover a
portion of plaintiffs' legal fees and costs. The settlement is only on
behalf of the individual plaintiffs for their individual claims. It does
not resolve outstanding issues between Shell and the Ogoni people, and the
plaintiffs did not negotiate on behalf of the Ogoni people.
Plaintiff Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jr.,
the son of Ken Saro-Wiwa explained, "In reaching this settlement, we were
very much aware that we are not the only Ogonis who have suffered in our
struggle with Shell, which is why we insisted on creating the Kiisi
Trust." The Kiisi Trust-Kiisi means "Progress"
in the plaintiffs' Ogoni language-will allow for initiatives in
Ogoni for educational endowments, skills development, agricultural development,
women's programs, small enterprise support, and adult literacy.
Judith Chomsky, cooperating attorney with
the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and of the attorneys who initiated
the lawsuit, stated, "The fortitude shown by our clients in the 13-year
struggle to hold Shell accountable has helped establish a principle that goes
beyond Shell and Nigeria-that
corporations, no matter how powerful, will be held to universal human rights
Added Jennie Green, the CCR staff attorney who
initiated the lawsuit in 1996, "This was one of the first cases to charge
a multinational corporation with human rights violations, and this settlement
confirms that multinational corporations can no longer act with the impunity
they once enjoyed."
Wiwa v. Royal Dutch
Petroleum, Wiwa v. SPDC, and Wiwa
v. Anderson are three lawsuits filed by CCR, co-counsel EarthRights
International (ERI), and private law firms on behalf of relatives of murdered
Ogoni activists and other injured Ogonis who were fighting for human rights and
environmental justice in their homeland. Plaintiffs charged Royal Dutch
Shell, Shell Nigeria, and Anderson with complicity in extrajudicial killing,
crimes against humanity, torture, and other human rights claims.
Plaintiffs in the case
include the relatives of the executed activists Ken Saro-Wiwa, John Kpuinen,
Saturday Doobee, Daniel Gbokoo, Felix Nuate, and Dr. Barinem Kiobel. Dr.
Owens Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa's brother, and Michael Tema Vizor brought
claims for the torture and detention that resulted in their exile from Nigeria.
Further claims were brought by Karalolo Kogbara, who lost her arm, and on
behalf of Uebari N-nah, who was killed in attacks on Ogoni civilians.
DiCaprio, an attorney who has worked on the case for many
years, commented, "Throughout this very long process, I have been humbled
by our clients' unwavering courage and resilience. Their satisfaction
with the result that we have been able to achieve is extremely
Human rights attorney Paul Hoffman, trial counsel in the Wiwa cases and partner at the law firm of
Schonbrun, De Simone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman, noted, "This settlement
is only a first step towards the resolution of still outstanding issues between
Shell and the Ogoni people."
operations in Nigeria
have been chief among Shell's assets for many decades. Critics charge
that Shell's aim for the lowest possible production cost, without regard
for the resulting damage to the surrounding people and land, has wreaked havoc
on local communities and the environment, including the still on-going practice
of gas flaring. In the early 1990s, the Ogoni, led by Ken Saro-Wiwa and
the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, began organized, non-violent
protests against Shell's practices. Shell grew increasingly concerned
with the heightened international prominence of the Ogoni movement and made payments
to security forces that they knew to be engaging in human rights violations
against the local communities. The military government violently
repressed the demonstrations, arrested Ogoni activists, and falsely accused
nine Ogoni activists of murder and bribed witnesses to give fake
testimony. The nine, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were denied a fair trial
and then hanged on November 10, 1995.
Said Agnieszka Fryszman, co-counsel with the law
firm of Cohen Millstein Sellers & Toll, "The case has been pending
for many years, and this settlement puts an end to what would likely
have been yet another long round of appeals."
Marco Simons, ERI Legal Director, stated,
"The courts repeatedly rejected Shell's efforts to dismiss this
case, setting important legal precedents for the continued prosecution of
corporations in breach of international law. This reinforces the
plaintiffs' demands that corporations such as Shell safeguard human
rights and the environment."