Human rights impacts of oil pollution: Nigeria

Execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists, and subsequent lawsuit against Shell

On 10 November 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his colleagues from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) were executed by the Nigerian military government.  Amnesty International said the men were convicted of murder “after grossly unfair and politically motivated trials and had no right to appeal.”   In 1996, a case was filed against Shell alleging that it was complicit in the torture and summary execution of Ken-Saro Wiwa and the other MOSOP members.  In June 2009, Shell agreed to settle the lawsuit for US$15.5 million.  Shell “has always maintained the allegations were false” and says that it appealed to the Nigerian Government to “show clemency on humanitarian grounds to Ken Saro-Wiwa and his co-defendants”.

Italicised quotations below are selected abstracts; for full text, click hyperlinked titles.

Summary profile of the Wiwa v Shell lawsuit, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre – includes links to further information
“In 1996, Royal Dutch/Shell was sued in US federal court by Ken Wiwa (son of the late Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa who was executed in 1995) and other members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).  MOSOP campaigned against the environmental damage caused by oil extraction in the Ogoni region of Nigeria and for increased autonomy for the Ogoni ethnic group.  Ken Saro-Wiwa and other members of MOSOP were detained illegally in 1994, held incommunicado in military custody, then tried by a special court established by the military government using procedures in violation of international fair trial standards, convicted of murder and executed.  The plaintiffs allege that the Nigerian military government and security forces committed human rights violations, including torture and summary execution of MOSOP members, to suppress MOSOP’s activities and that Royal Dutch/Shell was complicit in the commission of these abuses.  The plaintiffs won several pre-trial rulings, including on motions by the defendants to dismiss the case.

In early June 2009, the parties announced that they had agreed to a settlement in the case for $15.5 million.  The settlement provides compensation for the ten plaintiffs and covers a portion of the plaintiffs’ legal costs.  The settlement also establishes The Kiisi Trust, intended to benefit the Ogoni people, which will be governed by independent trustees.  This trust is to fund initiatives in Ogoniland such as education, women’s programmes, adult literacy and small enterprise support.”

[video] “Shell in court over alleged Nigeria crimes”, Kristen Saloomey, Al Jazeera, 3 Jun 2009
“Royal Dutch Shell is to go on trial in a US court over alleged crimes against humanity and exploitation of the oil-rich Niger Delta more than 10 years ago. The Dutch oil giant is accused of sponsoring a terror campaign by Nigerian security forces that led to the death of activist and author Ken Saro-Wiwa along with eight others in 1995.”

[video] "The Case Against Shell: 'The Hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa Showed the True Cost of Oil'", EarthRights International (ERI) & the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), May 2009
“In May 2009, multinational oil giant Shell will stand trial in United States federal court to answer to charges that it conspired in human rights abuses including murder in Nigeria in the 1990s. This mini-documentary tells the story of the rise of an inspiring and nonviolent movement for human rights and environmental justice, and the lengths Shell was willing to go to stop it.” – includes statements by plaintiffs’ lawyers

Ken Saro-Wiwa”, Shell website
“The 1995 executions of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogonis by Nigeria’s military government attracted international condemnation. Although SPDC [Shell Petroleum Development Company] was not responsible for those tragic events, and SPDC - and Shell International in London – had attempted to persuade the government to grant clemency, the family of Ken Saro-Wiva and others brought a court case against Shell. The allegations being made are false and without merit.”

[video] “Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni struggle: an introduction”, Remember Saro-Wiwa, 17 Nov 2009
“Nigerian writer and activist Saro-Wiwa was executed by the Nigerian government for his campaign for justice in the Niger Delta. In this video Saro-Wiwa reads from his book of short stories and broadcasts his last interview before he was executed.”

Shell settles human rights suit for $15.5M”, Chris Kahn, Associated Press, 8 Jun 2009
“Royal Dutch Shell agreed to a $15.5 million settlement Monday to end a lawsuit alleging that the oil giant was complicit in the executions of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other civilians by Nigeria's former military regime. Shell…said it agreed to settle the lawsuit in hopes aiding the "process of reconciliation." But Europe's largest oil company acknowledged no wrongdoing in the 1995 hanging deaths of six people, including poet Ken Saro-Wiwa”

Secret papers 'show how Shell targeted Nigeria oil protests'”, Andy Rowell, Independent (UK), 14 Jun 2009
“Serious questions over Shell Oil's alleged involvement in human rights abuses in Nigeria emerged last night after confidential internal documents and court statements revealed how the energy giant enlisted the help of the country's brutal former military government to deal with protesters. The documents…support allegations that Shell helped to provide Nigerian police and military with logistical support, and aided security sweeps.”

[video] “Nigeria hangs human rights activists”, BBC News, 10 Nov 1995
“Writer and human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, is executed in Nigeria despite worldwide pleas for clemency.”

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Article
14 June 2009

Secret papers 'show how Shell targeted Nigeria oil protests'

Author: Andy Rowell, Independent [UK]

Serious questions over Shell Oil's alleged involvement in human rights abuses in Nigeria emerged last night after confidential internal documents and court statements revealed how the energy giant enlisted the help of the country's brutal former...

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8 June 2009

Shell settles human rights suit for $15.5M

Author: Chris Kahn, Associated Press

Royal Dutch Shell agreed to a $15.5 million settlement Monday to end a lawsuit alleging that the oil giant was complicit in the executions of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other civilians by Nigeria's former military regime. Shell…said it agreed to...

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