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Nigeria: The video Shell does not want you to see

June 1, 2009 -- ShellGuilty -- A pre-trial conference scheduled in the potentially landmark lawsuit brought by Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has been delayed until June 3. The conference was announced following the decision by the presiding judge in the US Southern District Court in New York to delay indefinitely the actual trial. Jury selection in the trial itself had been meant to start April 27, but was put off the day before. No new date was set.

Shell is accused of complicity in the 1995 hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a renowned writer and activist, and other leaders of a movement protesting alleged environmental destruction and other abuses by Shell against the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta.

The corporation, which has a powerful presence in Nigeria, is also accused of complicity in the torture, detention and exile of Saro-Wiwa’s brother, Owens Wiwa, and other violent attacks on dissidents in the country.

The civil suit was brought by victims of Nigeria’s former military government, including Saro-Wiwa’s son. They sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a US law that dates to 1789 which is being increasingly used as a way to penalise human rights violations in foreign countries. The act requires companies with a substantial presence in the United States to obey US law everywhere in the world.

On May 12, Shell’s lawyers filed a motion opposing the admission of prominent human rights attorney Paul Hoffman to serve as trial counsel for the plaintiffs, citing the fact that he had posted a link on his law firm’s website to a video from the plaintiffs’ website. The motion refers to the “plaintiffs’ ‘campaign video’''. The court ruled against Shell's lawyers’ motion to oppose admission of Hoffman to serve as trial counsel for the plaintiffs, but ordered the removal of the video from the plaintiffs’ educational website about the case.

The ShellGuilty campaign has re-posted the video, dubbing it ``The Video Shell Doesn’t Want You to See'', and wrote about Shell’s attempts to suppress it in an article on Huffington Post, which was widely circulated via social networking sites such as Digg, Twitter and Facebook.

The video lays out the plaintiffs’ case against Shell, and includes documentary footage of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, leading Ogoni activist who was hanged by the Nigerian military in 1995 along with eight fellow activists. The plaintiffs, including Saro-Wiwa’s son Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., assert that Shell conspired with the Nigeria military in the prosecution and execution of the men, known as the ``Ogoni 9''.

The video and article can also be viewed here:

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