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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Update – Upcoming US Trial for Claims by Nigerians Against Shell Under the Alien Tort Statute

A May 29, 2009 article by Mark Hamblett updates on this case. The update provides some additional legal commentary and indicates jury selection was delayed this week, perhaps for settlement talks.

______________________________________________ A May 7, 2009 article by Mark Hamblett from the New York Law Joournal describes an upcoming trial for a fascinating “crimes against humanity” case against Shell by Nigerians. To whet your appetite, here are some exceprts from the article:

“A federal judge has cleared one of the last obstacles to a May trial for families of Nigerian environmental activists who are seeking to hold a Dutch oil company liable for violations of international law committed by the Nigerian military government.

In what will be one of the first times, if not the first time, that a corporation goes on trial for crimes against humanity, Southern District of New York Judge Kimba Wood rejected all but one motion to dismiss by Shell Petroleum, N.V. and other defendants in Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, 96 Civ. 8386 and Wiwa v. Anderson, 01 Civ. 1909.

The claim alleges that executed Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists were the victims of a campaign of terror launched by the Nigerian government because they fought oil exploration in the Ogoni region of Nigeria. The company, the plaintiffs allege, was complicit in the 1995 hanging of Saro-Wiwa and other activists and the torture, jailing and ultimate exile of Saro-Wiwa’s brother, Dr. Owens Wiwa.

Filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act, the complaints in the two cases contend that the defendants, Shell Petroleum, N.V., recruited Nigerian police and military to attack villages and crush opposition to the company’s development in the region. While the plaintiffs are seeking to hold the company vicariously liable, they are attempting to hold directly liable Brian Anderson, the head of the company’s Nigerian operation.

Jury selection in the case is expected to begin May 26.”

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