Dutch court overrules Shell in case brought by Nigerian activists widows

A HAGUE District Court in the Netherlands on Wednesday ruled against Royal Dutch Shell in a damages suit brought by the widows of four environmental activists who were executed by the Sani Abacha, led government in 1995 according to a report.

The women accuse Shell of been complicit in the unlawful arrest, detention and execution of their husbands by the Nigerian government. Their legal team demands that Shell hands over internal documents which would provide key evidence of its complicity.

However, Shell denies the allegations challenging the decision of the District Court of The Hague to hear the case stating it lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.

In a temporary judgement delivered on Wednesday, a three-judge panel at the Hague District Court affirmed that the court had jurisdiction in hearing the suit, though they did not agree with assertions by the widows that Shell should have done more to prevent their husbands’ deaths.

“The court considers itself capable of hearing the case. This procedure will continue.” Larissa Alwin, Presiding Judge said, reading the decision of the court.

In a statement released by Amnesty International, Head of Business and Human Rights, Mark Dummett, he hailed the court’s decision to order Shell to release some internal documents which would provide perspectives on the role played by the multinational company in the execution of the environmental activists.

“This decision marks a vital step towards justice for Esther and the other plaintiffs. It also sets an important precedent for other victims around the world who are seeking to hold powerful corporations to account, and who struggle to access justice.

    “We salute Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula. It’s only because of their courage and persistence that we’ve got this far.

    “The women believe their husbands would still be alive today were it not for Shell’s relentless pursuit of profit, which encouraged the Nigerian government’s bloody crackdown on protesters even when it knew the deadly human cost. Shell might now face questioning in a court of law about what they knew and how they contributed to this horrifying event in Nigerian history,” he said.

    Esther Kiobel and Victoria Bera testified at the court in February, speaking about their attempts to get justice for their late husbands.

    They currently reside in the US and Canada respectively from where they’ve been attending the court sessions, but the other widows Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula were refused visas to travel from Nigeria to attend the hearing in the Hague.

    Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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