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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid