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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid