News / USA

US Supreme Court Will Hear Shell Nigeria Abuse Case

Nico Colombant

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on whether or not corporations can be held liable for complicity in human rights abuses outside the country.  The specific case on dock concerns the torture and execution of activists in Nigeria and the alleged involvement of oil giant Shell.

The Supreme Court case is Esther Kiobel versus the Royal Dutch Shell petroleum company.

Kiobel is the widow of one of nine anti-Shell protest leaders executed in Nigeria by the military in 1995.

Shell, headquartered in the Netherlands, and registered in Britain, is the fifth largest company in the world.

On the side of the plaintiffs, Jennifer Green, a professor of law from the University of Minnesota, explains Tuesday’s importance.

“The issue before the court is whether a corporation is basically immune for human rights abuses and we think the most significant principle is that corporations that are doing business in the United States are bound by U.S. law and U.S. law includes the prohibition of human rights violations. So when a corporation is complicit in those violations, it can be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute," she said.

The 1789 statute remained almost completely unused until the 1980s, but since then it has come up more and more.

It allows courts to hear cases brought up by foreigners for violations of international laws and U.S. treaties.

A U.S.-based member of the 1990s protests in the southern Ogoni region of Nigeria, Ben Ikari, plans to organize protests outside the Supreme Court Tuesday.  He says he feels proud of his long struggle against environmental degradation caused by oil companies.

“The Ogoni case even from the non-violent struggle we started has been a kind of boost to other oppressed people in Nigeria, even Africa in general, extending even to the world.  People now they can face or they can challenge multinational corporations such as Shell, strong, mighty, rich corporations such as Shell, and so that fear has been taken away," he said.

Similar cases filed by relatives of Ogoni protest leader Ken Saro-Wiwa resulted in a 2009 $15.5 million settlement by Shell for the plaintiffs and Ogoni people.

The settlement was reached after 13 years of legal wrangling just before the scheduled start of a jury trial in a New York federal court.

Shell officials vigorously denied any involvement in the killings or in any human rights abuses, but said they acknowledged plaintiffs and others had suffered.

In terms of the current Kiobel case, the Supreme Court will only decide whether it can proceed in the U.S. judicial system.

At that point, Marco Simon, the legal director of Earthrights International, says there would still be many hurdles. “Shell could argue that the case should be heard in Nigeria, it could argue that the plaintiffs have not submitted sufficient evidence to prove that Shell was involved in the human rights abuses at issue," he said.

There was no immediate response by Shell officials for a comment for this report.

Lawyers for the oil company have previously said there should not be corporate liability in such cases because, if so, companies may become less inclined to work in countries where human rights abuses regularly take place.

The British, Dutch and German governments, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other multinational corporations have also supported Shell, saying what happened in Nigeria has no connection to the United States.

The administration of President Barack Obama and international human rights organizations have come out supporting the argument of corporate liability.

A Supreme Court decision is expected by the end of June.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs