Rallies in Ogoniland, Nigeria, US and UK ahead of Wiwa v Shell trial.

ogonis-jubilate-over-verdict-of-guilt-on-shell at a mock trial in Ogoniland

Wednesday 27th May 2009

CONTACT:
Nigeria, Celestine Akpobari, Ogoni Solidarity Forum, +234 8032733965
Ken Henshaw, Social Action, +234 8034053707
US, Celia Alario, +1(310) 721-6517
UK, Benjamin, PLATFORM, +44 207 357 0055

Stunning protests swept three different countries ahead of the delayed Wiwa v Shell trial. The trial was due to open on 27th May, but the court announced a delay yesterday without setting a new date, saying that the earliest that jury selection would begin would be June 2nd. Despite the delay, hundreds of people across the globe demanded that Shell be held to account for human rights abuses.

In Nigeria, a rally, a candlelit vigil at the graveside of Ken Saro-Wiwa, and a mock trial were held at Bane, in Saro-Wiwa’s community. The events ran into controversy after Rivers State Police arrested a number of women activists in an attempt to prevent them from attending demonstrations. Protestors demanded their release, and eventually forced the police to release the detainees and respect their right to protest.

A noon rally took place in New York at Foley Square in Manhattan, near the federal courthouse where the trial had been scheduled to open today. A hundred supporters came out ahead of the trial, unfurling a banner that read, ‘JUSTICE FOR THE OGONI’. Inspiring speakers stressed that Shell cannot escape justice for their role in human rights abuses in the 1990s, and put pressure on Shell to end the ongoing environmental and social devastation in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. A group of Ogoni activists closed the event by singing the Ogoni solidarity anthem.

In the UK, protestors in London targeted Shell’s London Headquarters at Waterloo with activists handing out leaflets to Shell employees while chanting, ‘Justice is coming’. The protests were coordinated by the ShellGuilty coalition and global partners. Photos of each of the protests are available to download along with a note of information. Click here for Nigeria, New York, and London.

Ben Amunwa from PLATFORM said, “This trial is long overdue. In 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa was framed and executed so that Shell and the Nigerian regime could continue pumping oil at a devastating cost for local communities. Global activists spoke in one voice today to demand that Shell held to account for its crimes.”

Steve Kretzmann from Oil Change International said, “We are pleased that Shell is due to be on trial in New York, but real justice is an end to Shell’s daily abuse of human rights in Nigeria. Shell continues to ignore the suffering of communities in the Niger Delta and to destroy their land and health with toxic gas flares.”

NOTES:

Ken Saro-Wiwa was a writer and leading activist demanding rights for Nigeria’s Ogoni people, including an end to Shell’s gas flaring in Ogoni regions. As a result of his activism, Saro-Wiwa was detained, imprisoned and tortured throughout the early 1990s. On November 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were executed by the Nigerian government for their campaigning. Substantial evidence indicates Shell collaborated with the Nigerian government in a campaign of brutal crackdowns that culminated in the execution of Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues. Shell may be forced to face this evidence in US federal district court in New York City. The court has said that at the earliest jury selection would begin on June 2nd.

For more information visit www.ShellGuilty.com.

Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 80 countries. Friends of the Earth campaigns on today’s most urgent environmental and social issues.

Oil Change International campaigns to expose the true costs of oil and facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy. Oil Change is dedicated to identifying and overcoming political barriers to that transition.

PLATFORM is a U.K.-based arts and campaign group focusing on the impact of the oil and gas industry on the rights of local communities. PLATFORM’s Remember Saro-Wiwa project aims to create a permanent Living Memorial to Ken Saro-Wiwa in London and to raise awareness about the ongoing environmental and social devastation of the Niger Delta by oil companies, particularly Shell.