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Amnesty International (AI) says multi-national oil company Shell is hoarding evidence that are crucial to a legal case in the Netherlands alleging its complicity in the unlawful arrest, detention and execution of nine men in Nigeria in the 1990s.
It alleges that Shell’s US law firm is refusing to hand over more than 100,000 internal documents needed to prove complicity of the oil giant in the case.This is coming ahead of a US Court of Appeals hearing next week.
According to Audrey Gaughran, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International, “Shell has gone to extraordinary lengths to withhold this critical information. Because the documents in question are so old, it is highly unlikely that there are legitimate business reasons for keeping them confidential. So what does Shell have to hide?”
In a statement released on Friday, Gaughran said: “Having reviewed the available evidence, Amnesty International believes that Shell was complicit in putting the Ogoni Nine at the mercy of a government it knew to be serial human rights abuser.
“Given the seriousness of the allegations, it is vital that Shell releases the rest of the information. It cannot be allowed to hide behind expensive legal teams and sleights of hand to avoid facing justice.”
The execution of the ‘Ogoni Nine’, including renowned writer Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Nigerian state in 1995 sparked global outrage.
It was the culmination of a brutal campaign by the military government to silence protests in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.
After a 20-year battle for justice, four of the men’s widows, led by Esther Kiobel, filed a legal writ against Shell in the Netherlands on June 28, 2015. But Shell is trying to prevent the release of information vital to the case.
On September 12, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York will hear the first appeal by Shell’s lawyers Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP against a federal court order to turn over the documents.
Esther Kiobel is represented in the proceedings by EarthRights International, an international human rights and environmental justice NGO.
She first filed a lawsuit against Shell in 2001 in the US, but in 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled that the US did not have jurisdiction, without hearing the substance of the case. Shell was represented by Cravath, which still holds more than 100,000 confidential Shell documents produced through discovery in the original case.
On January 24, 2017 a New York district court ordered Shell to turn over the documents.
The international human rights organization says after reviewing the available evidence, it believes that Shell encouraged the authorities in their campaign to stop the protests, even after they knew human rights violations had occurred.
It adds that it has presented these allegations to Shell, which stated that it “did not collude with the military authorities to suppress community unrest and in no way encouraged or advocated any act of violence in Nigeria”.