Landmark human rights trial against Shell in Nigeria postponed
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May 26, 2009 -- Democracy Now! -- A landmark trial against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell’s alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta begins this Wednesday in a federal court in New York. Fourteen years after the widely condemned execution of the acclaimed Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the court will hear allegations that Shell was complicit in his torture and execution.
Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International. He was at Shell’s annual shareholder meeting in London earlier this month and has been following the case against Shell. He also worked closely with Ken Saro-Wiwa in the last two years before Saro-Wiwa’s death.
Han Shan, the coordinator of the ShellGuilty campaign, a coalition initiative of Friends of the Earth, Oil Change International, and PLATFORM/Remember Saro-Wiwa.
AMY GOODMAN: A landmark trial against oil giant Royal Dutch
Shell’s alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger
Delta begins Wednesday in a federal court here in Manhattan. Fourteen
years after the widely condemned execution of the acclaimed Nigerian
writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the court will hear
allegations that Shell was complicit in his torture and execution.
Ken Saro-Wiwa was the founding member and president of MOSOP,
the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, a group committed to
use nonviolence to stop the repression and exploitation of the Ogoni
and their land by Shell and the Nigerian government.
KEN SARO-WIWA: The indigenous people have been cheated through laws such as are operated in Nigeria today. Through political marginalization, they have driven certain people to death. In recovering the money that has been stolen from us, I do not want any blood spilled, not of an Ogoni man, not of any strangers amongst us. We are going to demand our rights peacefully, nonviolently, and we shall win.
AMY GOODMAN: In 1996, a year after Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight
other Ogoni activists were hanged, the Center for Constitutional
Rights, EarthRights International and other human rights attorneys
brought a series of cases against Royal Dutch Shell and Brian Anderson,
the former head of Shell’s Nigeria operation. They accused Shell of
working closely with and financing the Nigerian military government to
brutally quell the peaceful resistance against Shell’s presence in the
country. Shell strongly denies all charges.
The cases against Shell were brought under the US Alien Torts
Claim Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act and will finally go to
trial this week despite Shell’s attempts to get the cases thrown out of
court over the past decade.
Ken Wiwa, Saro-Wiwa’s son, told reporters earlier this month
that, quote, “In a sense we already have a victory, because one of the
things my father said was that Shell would one day have its day in
Well, when Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill
and I traveled to the Niger Delta in 1998, we went to Ogoniland. We
visited Ken Saro-Wiwa’s parents. An Ogoni man stepped forward from the
hundreds of villagers who gathered to greet us, and he began reciting
the final speech of Ken Saro-Wiwa, made shortly before he was hanged.
OGONI MAN: I have no doubt at all about the ultimate
success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and
those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Neither
imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory. I repeat that we
all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on
trial. Shell is here on trial, and it is as well that…
JEREMY SCAHILL: When we visited the parents of Ken Saro-Wiwa a few days before coming to Ilajeland, this man stood up and recited Saro-Wiwa’s closing statement before the military tribunal that would ultimately hang him.
OGONI MAN: In my innocence of the false charge I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger Delta and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side.
AMY GOODMAN: The voice of an Ogoni man reciting the last words of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
I’m joined right now by two guests. Steve Kretzmann is the
executive director of Oil Change International. He was at Shell’s
annual shareholder meeting in London last week and has been following
the case against Shell. He also worked closely with Ken Saro-Wiwa in
the last two years before Ken’s death. Steve Kretzmann, joining us from
We’re also joined here in New York by Han Shan, the director of
the ShellGuilty campaign, a coalition initiative of Friends of the
Earth, Oil Change International and PLATFORM/Remember Saro-Wiwa.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! I wanted to start
with Ken Saro-Wiwa, because of the trial that’s beginning this week.
Steve Kretzmann, you knew him well. Tell us about who he was.
STEVE KRETZMANN: Ken was an amazing man. He’s easily the
most extraordinary individual I’ve ever met, deeply, philosophically
and strategically committed to nonviolence. You know, he spanned
worlds. He really—you know, the protest of the Niger Delta peoples
against the way that the oil companies have polluted their landscape
and conspired with the Nigerian government for decades has really gone
on since at least 1970. That’s the earliest recorded references we have
to protests by local communities. But it took until Ken came on the
scene in 1990 with the formation of the Movement for the Survival of
Ogoni People to internationalize the cause and for his articulate
voice, for his charisma to be lent to the cause, which really educated
all of us around the world about the tragedy that is ongoing today in
the Niger Delta.
AMY GOODMAN: I had a chance to interview Ken Saro-Wiwa
for Pacifica station WBAI in New York. I was co-hosting the morning
show with Bernard White, and a Nigerian activist brought him into the
studio that morning unannounced. It was Ken’s final visit to the United
States. It was just before he returned to Nigeria and was arrested,
then tried and executed. This was Ken Saro-Wiwa on radio.
KEN SARO-WIWA: Shell does not want to negotiate with
the Ogoni people. Each time they’ve come under pressure from local
people, their want has always been to run to the Nigerian government
and to say to the Nigerian government, “Oil is 90 percent of your
foreign exchange earning. If anything happens to oil, your economy will
be destroyed. Therefore, you must go and deal with these people, these
troublemakers.” And most times, the government will oblige them and
visits local communities of poor, dispossessed people with a lot of
And when these communities then protested and said, “Look. Look
at the amount of violence that is being used against us, even though we
are only protesting peacefully,” then the oil companies will come and
say, “Well, there is no way we can determine how much violence a
government decides to use against its own people.” So, basically, the
local communities have no leverage with the oil companies at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Who is the government now of Nigeria?
KEN SARO-WIWA: There is a military government in power at
this time. And indeed, military people have been in power in the
country for a long time.
AMY GOODMAN: Because they suspended the results of the elections?
KEN SARO-WIWA: Yes, indeed. But for a long time now,
Nigeria has been under military dictatorships. And the oil companies
like military dictatorships, because basically they can cheat with
these dictatorships. The dictatorships are brutal to people, and they
can deny the rights of—human rights of individuals and of communities
quite easily, without compunction.
AMY GOODMAN: Ken Saro-Wiwa, how does the oil
companies—how do Shell and Chevron deal with you as the president of
the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People?
KEN SARO-WIWA: Well, recently, when the protests started, Shell, they had a meeting. And the operatives of Shell in Nigeria and of those at The Hague in the Netherlands, and in London, held a meeting, and they decided that they would have to keep an eye on me, watch wherever I go to, follow me constantly, to ensure that I do not embarrass Shell. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m a marked man.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ken Saro-Wiwa back in 1995. In fact, Steve Kretzmann, you organized that trip?
STEVE KRETZMANN: I did. I was one of the co-organizers of that trip, yep.
AMY GOODMAN: And the month and year of that trip?
STEVE KRETZMANN: That was January or February of 1994.
AMY GOODMAN: And he returned in 1994 to Nigeria, and he was soon arrested.
STEVE KRETZMANN: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And then he was ultimately tried. Explain
that trial, Steve Kretzmann. And right now, with the three cases being
brought against Shell, explain what was Shell’s role, if any, in that
STEVE KRETZMANN: Well, the trial was widely condemned by
independent observers—Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, even
the British government—as being a sham and a “travesty of justice,” was
the quote that Prime Minister John Major at the time said about the
trial and the ultimate execution of Ken.
You know, Shell’s role is obviously the issue that begins this
week in court. I think there are some truly amazing aspects and pieces
of evidence that will come out. One of the most damning, I think, is
the signed affidavits from the witnesses who were at the trial. There
were witnesses at the trial who said that Ken was involved in a crime.
This is the crime for which I believe he was framed. Those witnesses
subsequently signed affidavits with a British lawyer saying that they
were bribed by the Nigerian government and Shell to testify against
Saro-Wiwa. So I think that’s one of the most damning pieces of evidence
that will come out over the next several weeks in the New York
Shell also, we will see that they were deeply involved in the
planning of the trial and really, I think, the campaign to silence the
Ogoni and Ken Saro-Wiwa. And, you know, it’s quite troubling, the cozy
relationship that existed in between this oil company, which is the
largest multinational that operates in Nigeria today and was at the
time, and what was a military dictatorship at that time. I think it’s
extremely troubling and should give us all pause about the role of
multinational corporations in the world today.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break. Then we’ll be
back. Steve Kretzmann, our guest, executive director of Oil Change
International. We’ll also be joined by Han Shan, coordinator of
ShellGuilty campaign. We did invite Shell on the broadcast.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and
Peace Report. We are talking about the true cost of oil, and after
Shell, we’ll turn to Chevron. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, Steve Kretzmann, executive
director of Oil Change International, he’s just back from London, the
Shell shareholder meeting. Han Shan, in studio with us, coordinator of
I want to go to a short clip from a video that, Han Shan, you produced to publicize the upcoming trial. It’s called The Case Against Shell. Shell made a motion to pull the video off the Wiwa v. Shell website, wiwavshell.org. This clip features Ken Saro-Wiwa’s son Ken Wiwa and Marco Simons, the legal director of EarthRights International.
MARCO SIMONS: Ultimately, Shell’s lawyers conspired with
the prosecution of the Ogoni leadership and participated in bribing
witnesses against the Ogoni Nine in securing their convictions. And, of
course, they were ultimately executed.
KEN WIWA: The Nigerian military announced this week that
my father and eight others have been sentenced to death. They have no
right of appeal.
NARRATOR: On November 10th, 1995, after a trial
universally condemned as a sham and a sentence met with shock and
outrage around the world, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders
were hanged by the Nigerian military government. Ken’s last words were,
“Lord, take my soul, but the struggle continues.”
KEN WIWA: I urge all of you here to keep the pressure on
Shell to accept the responsibility for what has happened in Ogoni and
what is still happening.
AMY GOODMAN: That last voice, that of Ken Wiwa, Ken
Saro-Wiwa’s son, and before that, Marco Simons, legal director at
Han Shan, explain what happened with this video.
HAN SHAN: Well, I was working with EarthRights
International for several months before resigning, basically, to work
on this ShellGuilty campaign, and obviously we’re not coordinating with
the litigation team. It was something that I was involved in before I
joined the ShellGuilty campaign. And I helped produce that video.
But basically, we learned about this, because I’ve just been
following along with court documents that are publicly available on the
United States District Court website and saw that Shell had been
complaining about some of the education and outreach activities that
the litigation team is doing. And there was an order that was noted on
the website, and I was able to look at a document where they had
opposed one of the lawyers’ participation in the trial, because he had
a link to the video on his firm’s website. And subsequently, the court
ordered them to remove the website after multiple requests from Shell.
So, it is the video that Shell does not want the public to see,
but, of course, you know, it’s the internet. It’s been on the website.
It’s been out there. It’s on YouTube. So, they have removed it from the
website, but it’s still out there. And obviously it’s something
that’s—it contains dangerous truths that we hope people will watch and
AMY GOODMAN: This ShellGuilty campaign that you’re coordinating, explain what you’re doing.
HAN SHAN: Well, basically, as I said, I left working with
EarthRights, because their involvement in the litigation, along with
co-counsel, Center for Constitutional Rights, it constrains them from
doing all kinds of things, understandably. There are certain things
that they can’t say and can’t do, because their focus is on litigation
and in the courtroom.
But we felt that it was important that we keep a spotlight on
Shell, on this trial, and make sure that people know, you know, people
like yourself who followed this fourteen years ago. There are an awful
lot of people who don’t even realize that this is coming to court.
There are profound implications. So, we organized ShellGuilty
essentially to highlight Shell’s crimes and keep a spotlight on this
trial and also push for an end to gas flaring. That is something that
animated the resistance to Shell of MOSOP and Ken back in the day, and
it’s still going on now.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the gas flaring.
HAN SHAN: Well, gas flaring is a practice that Shell
would never get away with in the US, they would never get away with in
Europe, and they do it today in Nigeria twenty-four hours a day, and
they’ve been doing it for decades. It’s the burning off of associated
gas, gas that’s released through oil extraction activities. And they do
it because it’s cheaper and easier than re-injecting the gas into the
wells or actually capturing it and using it.
It could be used to actually give electricity and power to some
of these impoverished villages that have enriched Shell and the
Nigerian government so much. But instead, they burn it off in these
toxic plumes of fire that release all kinds of toxins and enormous
amounts of greenhouse gases that add to the climate crisis. And, you
know, it’s something that aggravates local communities. It’s poisonous
to local communities. And, you know, Shell has continued to choose to
engage in this practice, because it’s more cost-efficient than doing
the right thing and finding a solution with its $30 billion in annual
profits and utilizing the gas or at least re-injecting it.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how these are actually three
cases, what’s going to be happening tomorrow, Wednesday, in federal
court here in New York, that have been consolidated into one, Han Shan.
HAN SHAN: Well, basically, you know, the first lawsuit
was filed, as you mentioned, back in 1996, almost exactly a year to the
day after the Ogoni Nine were hanged. And that was brought by Owens
Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother, and Ken Wiwa, his son. But subsequently,
there were other lawsuits, as well: one against Brian Anderson, the
head of Shell Nigeria at the time, as well as some lawsuits related to
a few other incidents that are part of this trial. So, a shooting
incident in which Shell requested the Nigerian military and later
compensated them, they basically arrived at a nonviolent protest and
shot and killed a man named Uebari N-nah.
So, the judge in this case, Chief Judge Kimba Wood, who’s
head—the chief judge here at the Southern District Second Circuit, has
sort of just brought all these cases together to be heard in one trial,
because they’re all absolutely interrelated and commingled. But the way
that they’ve been consolidated, you’d have to ask a lawyer to explain
all the complexity of it. But, you know, some charges could be dropped
or thrown out or settled, and some could move forward. So it’s all a
matter of, you know, what we’ll see over the next month or so.
AMY GOODMAN: Steve Kretzmann, you’ve just come back from
Britain. You were in London for the Shell shareholder meeting. How
prominent was this case? And then, explain, overall, what was happening
at the Shell shareholder meeting?
STEVE KRETZMANN: Well, you know, perhaps not
surprisingly, this case was not particularly prominent inside the
shareholder meeting at all. The primary issue of concern inside the
shareholder meeting was the remuneration package for the board of
directors and the directors of the company, in particular, which
actually the shareholders, interestingly, revolted against. And you had
a majority of Shell’s shareholders voting against that package, which
is a fairly unheard of thing to have happen. Shell’s directors said
that they will take it under advisement and come back and perhaps
modify the raises that they’re giving themselves, while, of course,
they continue to gas flare in Nigeria. So, you know, the company is
continuing on with business as usual and sort of keeping their head in
You know, I think one of the things that will come out in this
trial is you’ll see that their strategy for many years, going back
twenty years, has been to starve this issue of oxygen. That’s literally
a phrase that comes out of some of the documents that we’ve discovered
in the trial. And I think that they’re still trying to do this. They’re
trying to not really give it any energy in hopes that it will simply go
away. But those of us who knew Ken Saro-Wiwa, those of us who are
deeply committed to peace and justice in Nigeria and corporate
accountability, are quite determined to not let this issue go away at
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a brief clip of a film that we highlighted last week. It’s Sandy Cioffi’s film called Sweet Crude. But this is the section of the documentary where she looks at the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
KEN SARO-WIWA: We want freedom!
CROWD: We want freedom!
KEN SARO-WIWA: We want freedom!
CROWD: We want freedom!
KEN SARO-WIWA: Freedom! From today onwards, Shell is declared persona non grata in Ogoni
IBIBA DON PEDRO: The Ogoni struggle issued out of Ogonis
like Ken Saro-Wiwa. They decided, you know, to come together to begin
to agitate for an end to environmental degradation, for an end to the
kind of injustice that exists in a situation where oil comes out of
Ogoniland, but Ogoni people are some of the poorest people. Their lands
are taken over for oil.
UNIDENTIFIED: The Ogoni Bill of Rights was basically
asking for a fair share of the oil revenue. And this was led
peacefully, without violence. It was led peacefully, calling for
KEN SARO-WIWA: We are going to demand our rights peacefully, nonviolently, and we shall win.
PETER JENNINGS: This may come as a shock. Yesterday, when
we decided to choose this man, we knew that his life was in danger. And
quite frankly, we hoped that by focusing on his work, we would
contribute urgently to people’s understanding of his crisis. We are too
late. This morning in Nigeria, as we were preparing this profile, Ken
Saro-Wiwa was hanged by the military government.
BERNARD SHAW: About twelve hours ago, the military regime
in Nigeria executed nine men, including environmentalist and minority
rights leader Ken Saro-Wiwa.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: This heinous act offends our values
and darkens our hope for democracy in the region. We particularly
deplore this action where it was taken despite the pleas of so many
governments, including my own. My government is now urgently
considering what further steps to take, including action by the
Security Council. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED: Ken Saro-Wiwa never carried a gun. He was calling for international attention. He was calling for dialogue. What did they do to him? He was hanged. And every other person who was with him was executed.
AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Sweet Crude, produced by Sandy Cioffi, who was on Democracy Now! last week.
Steve Kretzmann, on the issue of Ken Saro-Wiwa today, fourteen years later, what do you expect to come from this trial?
STEVE KRETZMANN: Well, we certainly expect justice in
terms of greater profile for the issue. But, you know, one thing I
really hope comes out of this is the recognition that the struggle that
Ken and the Ogoni took up twenty years ago and came to a head fourteen
years ago is really the same struggle, the same issues that are going
on in Nigeria today.
You had this—the great report last week with Sandy Cioffi,
talking about the ongoing violence in the Niger Delta. The Nigerian
parliament just approved on Friday a widening of the offensive against
the Nigerian villagers who have taken up arms.
And, you know, the causes that they are addressing, what they’re
trying to address here are the same things that Ken and the Ogoni and
Niger Delta peoples have been trying to address for forty, fifty years:
the ongoing flaring of gas, the abject party that the region suffers
from despite the fact that billions of dollars of oil wealth have come
out of there, the oil spills, etc., etc.
This really has to stop, and we certainly hope that the
spotlight that the trial will shine on Nigeria and these issues will
finally change this issue once and for all.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Han Shan, what you’re doing now coordinating the outside protests?
HAN SHAN: Well, we’re going to be doing a lot of
commentary and providing, hopefully, some insight into what’s actually
happening inside the courtroom. We’ll be blogging. We’ll be writing
about it on ShellGuilty.com.
And tomorrow, tomorrow, Wednesday at noon in Foley Square, right
across from the courthouse, we’re holding a rally at noon where we’ll
mark this historic opening of the trial. I mean, for so many people,
seeing Ken’s prophecy come true, that in fact Shell would have its day
in court, is just critically important. And we want to make sure that
we mark this historic day. So, folks in New York and near New York, we
hope people will come out for this noontime rally at Foley Square and
show respects and also show Shell that people care about this.
And as Steve said, this is happening in Nigeria today. There are
still critical issues that Shell has yet to address. And, you know, we
have an opportunity, hopefully, to turn up the heat on Shell a bit
AMY GOODMAN: Again, I want to say we did invite Shell on today’s broadcast. We hope they will join us at a future point. They didn’t today.
Han Shan, coordinator of the ShellGuilty campaign, at shellguilty.com. Steve Kretzmann is executive director of Oil Change International.
We’re going to go to break, and when we come back, we will turn to another oil giant. They’re holding their shareholders’ meeting this week. We’re going to be talking about Chevron. Antonia Juhasz is joining us. She’s just released a report called “The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report.” And a spokesperson for Chevron will be joining us, the head of Latin American operations. Stay with us.
From The Case Against Shell website
Royal Dutch Shell plc (Shell) began oil production in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in 1958 and has a long history of working closely with the Nigerian government to quell popular opposition to its presence in the region. At the request of Shell, and with Shell’s assistance and financing, Nigerian soldiers used deadly force and massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people throughout the early 1990s to repress a growing movement against the oil company. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), EarthRights International (ERI) and other human rights attorneys sued Shell for human rights violations against the Ogoni. The case will go to trial on May 26, 2009, in New York City.
Who are the Ogoni and why were they protesting?
Ogoni is the name of a region in the Niger Delta of southern Nigeria as well as the name of the ethnic group that lives in that region.
For the Ogoni and the people of Nigeria, oil and oil companies have brought poverty, environmental devastastion and widespread, severe human rights abuses. Currently, almost 85 per cent of oil revenues accrue to 1% of the population while, according to the African Development Bank, more than 70 per cent of Nigerians live on less than US$1 per day. Ogoniland is home to several environmental treasures, including the third-largest mangrove forest in the world and one of the largest surviving rainforests in Nigeria. Oil drilling by Shell and other oil companies has had a devastating impact on the region’s environment. Oil spills, gas flaring and deforestation have stripped the land of its environmental resources, destroying the subsistence farming and fishing-based economy of the Ogoni people.
What is MOSOP?
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) is a human rights group founded in 1990 that is committed to using non-violence to stop the repression and exploitation of the Ogoni and their resources by Shell and the Nigerian government. Upon its founding, MOSOP quickly garnered wide support and in 1993, at least half the total Ogoni population publicly supported the group. Ken Saro-Wiwa, founding member and president of MOSOP brought worldwide attention to the human rights violations committed against the Ogoni through international campaigning and his poignant writing. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize and awarded the Right Livelihood Award and the Goldman Prize for his environmental and human rights activism.
What happened to the plaintiffs in this case?
As the peaceful movement of the Ogoni grew, so did the Nigerian government’s and Shell’s brutal campaign against the Ogoni and MOSOP. In early 1993, Shell requested military support to build a pipeline through Ogoni. When plaintiff Karalolo Kogbara was crying over the resulting bulldozing of her crops, she was shot by Nigerian troops and lost an arm as a result. In a separate incident later that year, plaintiff Uebari N-nah was shot and killed by soldiers near a Shell flow station; the soldiers were requested by and later compensated by Shell. Plaintiff Owens Wiwa was detained repeatedly under false charges in 1994 to prevent him from protesting; he was beaten and threatened throughout his detentions. Michael Vizor, another plaintiff, was arrested for his political activities and upon his arrest his daughter was raped. When he would not confess to a false charge, he was beaten and tortured. Vizor’s son was also beaten and detained when he attempted to bring his father food.
In 1994, Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders were prevented by the military from attending a gathering; at that very gathering, four Ogoni chiefs were killed. The military governor promptly announced that Ken Saro-Wiwa caused the deaths, and he and other leaders were taken into custody. Despite the lack of any connection between MOSOP and the deaths, the military used the deaths as a pretext to conduct raids on 60 towns in Ogoni and to detain and beat several hundred men suspected of involvement with MOSOP.
A three-man tribunal was created by the Nigerian government to try the Ogoni leaders — known as the “Ogoni Nine” – for the murders of the four chiefs. The tribunal denied the Ogoni Nine access to counsel, a fair trial and the opportunity to appeal the decision. During the course of the trial they were tortured and mistreated, as were their relatives. The Ogoni Nine were convicted and were executed by hanging on November 10, 1995. Plaintiffs in this case include family members of Ken Saro-Wiwa, John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Saturday Doobee, Daniel Gbokoo and Felix Nuate.
“The military dictatorship holds down oil-producing areas such as Ogoni by military decrees and the threat or actual use of physical violence so that Shell can wage its ecological war without hindrance… This cozy, if criminal, relationship was perceived to be rudely disrupted by the non-violent struggle of the Ogoni people under MOSOP. The allies decided to bloody the Ogoni in order to stop their example from spreading through the oil-rich Niger Delta.”
– Ken Saro-Wiwa’s closing statement at the trial of the Ogoni 9.
How was Shell involved?
Shell continued its close relationship with the Nigerian military regime during the early 1990s. The oil company requested an increase in security and provided monetary and logistical support to the Nigerian police. Shell frequently called upon the Nigerian police for “security operations” that often amounted to raids and terror campaigns against the Ogoni.
In response to growing Ogoni opposition, Shell and the Nigerian government coordinated a public relations campaign to discredit the movement, falsely attributing airplane hijackings, kidnapping and other acts of violence to Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP.
Shell was involved in the development of the strategy that resulted in the unlawful execution of the Ogoni Nine. Shell told the Nigerian regime they needed to deal with Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP. Shell monitored Ken Saro-Wiwa, and closely followed the tribunal and his detention. Prior to the trial, Shell Nigeria told its parent companies that Saro-Wiwa would be convicted and told witnesses that Saro-Wiwa was never going free. Shell held meetings with the Nigerian regime to discuss the tribunal, including with the military president Sani Abacha himself. Shell’s lawyer attended the trial, which, in Nigeria, is a privilege afforded only to interested parties. Brian Anderson, the Managing Director of Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, met with Owens Wiwa, Saro-Wiwa’s brother and offered to trade Saro-Wiwa’s freedom for an end to the protests against the company. At least two witnesses who testified that Saro-Wiwa was involved in the murders of the Ogoni elders later recanted, stating that they had been bribed with money and offers of jobs with Shell to give false testimony – in the presence of Shell’s lawyer.
One month after the executions of the Ogoni Nine, Shell signed an agreement to invest $4 billion in a liquefied natural gas project in Nigeria.
What’s the status of the case against Shell?
Beginning in 1996, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), EarthRights International (ERI), Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman and other human rights attorneys have brought a series of cases to hold Shell accountable for human rights violations in Nigeria, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhuman treatment and arbitrary arrest and detention. The lawsuits are brought against Royal Dutch Shell and Brian Anderson, the head of its Nigerian operation.
The cases were brought under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 statute giving non-U. citizens the right to file suits in US courts for international human rights violations, and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows individuals to seek damages in the US for torture or extrajudicial killing, regardless of where the violations take place.
Shell has made many attempts to have these cases thrown out of court, which the plaintiffs have defeated. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has set a trial date of May 26, 2009. The plaintiffs eagerly await their day in court to hold the defendants accountable for their injuries and the deaths of their loved ones.
ABUSES IN NIGERIA POSTPONED
New York, May 26th, 2009 – The beginning of the trial in the landmark
human rights lawsuits Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell) and Wiwa v.
Anderson has been delayed. The case had been previously scheduled to
begin tomorrow, May 27, 2009 in the Southern District of New York.
Further updates will be provided as they become available.
The case, filed in 1996, is being brought by the Center for
Constitutional Rights and EarthRights International and other human
rights lawyers, on behalf of relatives of murdered activists. The case
charges the defendants with complicity in the November 10, 1995, hanging
of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other leaders opposed to Shell’s pattern of human
rights and environmental abuses in the Niger Delta. The case also
include claims 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 earlier attacks by
For more information about the case, please visit www.WiwavShell.org