Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Good news about Shell vs the Ken Wiwas

Kenule "Ken" Beeson Saro-Wiwa (October 10, 1941 – November 10, 1995) was a Nigerian author, television producer, environmental activist, and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic Nigerian minority whose hometown, Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta has been targeted for crude oil extraction since the 1950s and which has suffered extreme and unremediated environmental damage from decades of indiscriminate oil waste dumping. Initially as spokesperson, and then as President, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Saro-Wiwa led a nonviolent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and natural waters of Ogoniland by the operations of multinational oil companies, especially Shell. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, which he viewed as reluctant to enforce proper environmental regulations on the foreign oil companies operating in the area.

At the peak of his non-violent campaign, Saro-Wiwa was arrested, hastily tried by a special military tribunal, and hanged in 1995 by the Nigerian military government of General Sani Abacha, all on charges widely viewed as entirely politically motivated and completely unfounded. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations.

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.S. citizens the right to file suits in U.S. courts for international human rights violations, and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows individuals to seek damages in the U.S. 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 June, 2009. The plaintiffs eagerly await their day in court to hold the defendants alleged to be accountable for their injuries and the deaths of their loved ones.

On 9 June 2009 Shell agreed to an out of court settlement of 15.5 million USD to victims' families. However, the company denied any liability for the deaths, stating that the payment was part of a reconciliation process. In a statement given after the settlement, Shell suggested that the money was being provided to the relatives of Saro-Wiwa and the eight other victims, in order to cover the legal costs of the case and also in recognition of the events that took place in the region. Some of the funding is also expected to be used to set up a development trust for the Ogoni people, who inhabit the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The settlement was made just days before the trial, which had been brought by Ken Saro-Wiwa's son, was due to begin in New York.

Sources for Above History

Text: Wiki
Picture: The Poor Mouth


Shell pays out $15.5m over Saro-Wiwa killing

Source: The Guardian

* Ed Pilkington in New York
* guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 22.22 BST
* Article history: The article was published and last edited on the Guardian website at 22.22 BST on Monday, 8th June, 2009.

The oil giant Shell has agreed to pay $15.5m (£9.7m) in settlement of a legal action in which it was accused of having collaborated in the execution of the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of the Ogoni tribe of southern Nigeria.

The settlement is one of the largest payouts agreed by a multinational corporation charged with human rights violations. Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC have not conceded to or admitted any of the allegations, pleading innocent to all the civil charges.

But the scale of the payment is being seen by experts in human rights law as a step towards international businesses being made accountable for their environmental and social actions.

In the past, it has been notoriously difficult to bring and sustain legal actions involving powerful corporations.

The settlement follows three weeks of intensive negotiation between the plaintiffs, who largely consisted of relatives of the executed Ogoni nine, and Shell. "We spent a lot of time trying to put together something that would be acceptable to both sides, and our people are very pleased with the result," said Anthony DiCaprio, the lead lawyer for the Ogoni side working with the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights.

The deal marks the end of a 14-year personal journey for Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, son of the executed leader. Among the other plaintiffs was Karalolo Kogbara who lost an arm after she was shot by Nigerian troops when she protested against the bulldozing of her village in 1993 to make way for a Shell oil pipeline.

Though the settlement cannot compensate for individual losses of loved ones or livelihoods, the plaintiffs will now be able to pay all legal fees and costs. A sum of $5m will be used to set up a trust called Kiisi - meaning "progress" in the Ogoni Gokana language - to support educational, community and other initiatives in the Niger delta.

Shell has consistently denied any involvement in the decision of the Nigerian regime to execute the Ogoni nine. It argues it tried to plead with the government to grant clemency to the prisoners but to its great sadness the appeal went unheard.

Supporters of the legal action said the fact that Shell had walked away from the trial suggested the company had been anxious about the evidence that would have been presented to the jury had it gone ahead.

Stephen Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, said Shell "knew the case was overwhelming against them, so they bought their way out of a trial".

Among the documents that were lodged with the New York court was a 1994 letter from Shell in which it agreed to pay a unit of the Nigerian army for services rendered. The unit had retrieved one of the company's fire trucks from the village of Korokoro - an action that according to reports at the time left one Ogoni man dead and two wounded. Shell wrote that it was making the payment "as a show of gratitude and motivation for a sustained favourable disposition in future assignments".

Shell's involvement in the oil-rich Niger delta extends back to 1958. It remains the largest oil business in Nigeria, owning some 90 oil fields across the country.

The Ogoni people began non-violent agitation against Shell from the early 1990s, under the leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his organisation Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. Mosop has long complained that the oil giant was responsible for devastating the ecosystem of the delta upon which Ogoni farmers and fishermen depend, through a combination of oil spills, forest clearance for pipelines and the burning of gas from oil-wells known as gas flares.

Human rights experts believe the settlement will have a substantial impact on other multinational corporations. DiCaprio predicted it would "encourage companies to seriously consider the social and environmental impact their operations may have on a community or face the possibility of a suit".