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: http://www.shellguilty.com/wiwa-v-shell-video/
* * *
ShellGuilty on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups.php#/group.php?gid=171744785281
June 9, 2009
FROM: Oil Change International
Dear Oil Change Friend,
Huge news coming out of New York tonight. After thirteen years, and
countless hours of work by many, Royal Dutch Shell settled with the
families of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni tonight. The case is a
landmark victory for corporate accountability, human rights, and
You can read all about it at the Shell Guilty campaign, and here's a
quick overview from the Guardian. If you want a more personal
reflection, read the excellent piece below from Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr.
But most importantly, THANK YOU. Lawyers told us quite clearly that one
of the main reasons that Shell settled was because of the media and
activist pressure that we brought. Just a few months ago, a lawyer
close to Shell told us that they would settle "when hell froze over" and
he "skated on it": But that was before our ShellGuilty campaign. Over
11,000 of you sent messages to Shell, and we hit them around the world
in the media. That pressure made all the difference.
We'll soon have more updates on the case, on the amazing evidence that
was uncovered, and our ongoing efforts to hold Shell accountable for
their human rights and climate crimes. We'll also have more on the
ongoing crimes in the Niger Delta today. Until then though, please
accept the gratitude and respect of all the staff and Board at Oil
Some release from the torments of the past
Murdered activist's son on his reaction to Shell's $15.5m settlement
There was no hat-in-the-air moment, no popping of champagne corks.
Instead it was a steady accumulation of conviction conveyed by email to
my BlackBerry over the course of a long transatlantic day that included
the red eye from JFK in New York to London. Each email was a little less
tentative than the previous one until the final confirmation arrived
with the curiously tentative subject line: "its done???"
Anti-climax doesn't quite describe this moment because you know, deep
down, that the settlement is only the beginning of a process that you
hope will lead to a better outcome for all the stakeholders in this
issue but it is the end, for sure, of a 13-year-long court case.
It actually feels like those years all happened in the last month or
even over this weekend but the reality is that the case moved along in
fits and spurts. Looking back now I would have started out with far less
optimism had I known how many hours I would spend in airless rooms, how
many animated discussions, how many sleepless nights mulling over the
pros and cons of settling the case.
Nothing. Nothing about this has come or will ever come easy. Every word,
every phrase and every comma has been weighed, scrutinised and debated.
These are life and death matters. Head versus heart. The case has been
freighted with all kinds of agendas that it cannot possibly satisfy. In
the end a settlement is a compromise; both parties agree to settle their
differences by meeting in a so-called middle. That middle is a matter of
perspective of course. To some this must be bewildering. To others it
was too long in coming. In the end it is only those who are intimately
involved, who have everything to lose and everything to gain that have
to make a decision that will not satisfy everyone.
History will show that this was a landmark case. Multinationals now know
that a precedent has been set, that it is possible to be sued for human
rights violations in foreign jurisdictions.
In the end we collectively agreed to settle because the terms and
conditions of the offer from Shell enabled us to gain some measure of
psychological or financial relief, provided for a contribution towards
the future development of our community.
But it also enabled us to advertise the settlement as a living,
breathing example of how and why the commitment to peace, non-violence
and dialogue is the best way to resolve the challenges in the Niger Delta.
How the Ogoni community and the rest of the actors in the Niger Delta
respond is the next, critical, step. There are other cases outstanding
against Shell. Feelings still run high. Many people suffered and many
more are still suffering unnecessarily.
This settlement will not in itself immediately provide them with any
restitution other than the consolation that with enough perseverance and
commitment to justice, a better, safer, more humane and more prosperous
world is possible.
For the plaintiffs and more specifically for me, it is time to pause for
breath, a time to contemplate that this settlement can finally release
us from the torments of the past so that we can face the future with a
tangible measure of hope.
Or just maybe it is time to stop being the son of my father and be the
father to my sons.
-Ken Wiwa Jr., writing in the Guardian