Settlement Reached in Human Rights Cases Against Royal Dutch/Shell
On Eve of Trial, Settlement Agreements Provide $15.5 Million for Compensation to Nigerian Human Rights Activists and to Establish Trust Fund
New York, June 8, 2009 — Today, the parties in Wiwa v. Shell agreed to settle human rights claims charging the Royal Dutch/Shell company, its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell Nigeria), and the former head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson, with complicity in the torture, killing, and other abuses of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and other non-violent Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta.
The settlement, whose terms are public, provides a total of $15.5 million. These funds will compensate the 10 plaintiffs, who include family members of the deceased victims; establish a Trust intended to benefit the Ogoni people; and cover a portion of plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs. The settlement is only on behalf of the individual plaintiffs for their individual claims. It does not resolve outstanding issues between Shell and the Ogoni people, and the plaintiffs did not negotiate on behalf of the Ogoni people.
Plaintiff Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jr., the son of Ken Saro-Wiwa explained, “In reaching this settlement, we were very much aware that we are not the only Ogonis who have suffered in our struggle with Shell, which is why we insisted on creating the Kiisi Trust.” The Kiisi Trust—Kiisi means “Progress” in the plaintiffs’ Ogoni language—will allow for initiatives in Ogoni for educational endowments, skills development, agricultural development, women’s programs, small enterprise support, and adult literacy.
Judith Chomsky, cooperating attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and of the attorneys who initiated the lawsuit, stated, “The fortitude shown by our clients in the 13-year struggle to hold Shell accountable has helped establish a principle that goes beyond Shell and Nigeria—that corporations, no matter how powerful, will be held to universal human rights standards.”
Added Jennie Green, the CCR staff attorney who initiated the lawsuit in 1996, “This was one of the first cases to charge a multinational corporation with human rights violations, and this settlement confirms that multinational corporations can no longer act with the impunity they once enjoyed.”
Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Wiwa v. SPDC, and Wiwa v. Anderson are three lawsuits filed by CCR, co-counsel EarthRights International (ERI), and private law firms on behalf of relatives of murdered Ogoni activists and other injured Ogonis who were fighting for human rights and environmental justice in their homeland. Plaintiffs charged Royal Dutch Shell, Shell Nigeria, and Anderson with complicity in extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, torture, and other human rights claims.
Plaintiffs in the case include the relatives of the executed activists Ken Saro-Wiwa, John Kpuinen, Saturday Doobee, Daniel Gbokoo, Felix Nuate, and Dr. Barinem Kiobel. Dr. Owens Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother, and Michael Tema Vizor brought claims for the torture and detention that resulted in their exile from Nigeria. Further claims were brought by Karalolo Kogbara, who lost her arm, and on behalf of Uebari N-nah, who was killed in attacks on Ogoni civilians.
Anthony DiCaprio, an attorney who has worked on the case for many years, commented, “Throughout this very long process, I have been humbled by our clients’ unwavering courage and resilience. Their satisfaction with the result that we have been able to achieve is extremely gratifying.”
Human rights attorney Paul Hoffman, trial counsel in the Wiwa cases and partner at the law firm of Schonbrun, De Simone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman, noted, “This settlement is only a first step towards the resolution of still outstanding issues between Shell and the Ogoni people.”
Oil operations in Nigeria have been chief among Shell’s...