US-based EarthRights International (ERI) use the law to defend human rights and the environment. They recently posted up their perspective on Shell’s admission of liability for oil spills in Bodo, Ogoni. ERI’s super-hot legal team worked with other leading human rights advocates to hold Shell accountable for its active involvement in crimes against humanity in Ogoniland in the 1990s. After an landmark 13-year litigation, Shell settled out of court for $15.5 million in June 2009. For more info, please visit Wiwa v Shell.
Taken together, the [UNEP] report and admission of responsibility by Shell are powerful reminders of the crippling effect the oil industry continues to have on the Delta’s economy and environment, particularly on local communities that rely on the land and water for their survival.
The impoverished people from these Delta communities have borne the brunt of devastating, toxic pollution since drilling began there in the 1950s. Many Ogoni have never lived without contaminated soil and water, and although Shell stopped producing oil from Ogoni as a result of popular opposition in 1993, they still pump oil across Ogoniland through the Trans-Niger pipeline.
Other suits have been brought against Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC in Nigeria, the Netherlands, and the United States for environmental harms and human rights abuses related to the company’s oil operations in the Niger Delta. These claims have covered issues ranging from continued gas flaring (a leading emitter of greenhouse gases that contributes to acid rain and a practice that is illegal under Nigerian law), to the destruction of the delicate ecology of the Delta, to complicity in murder, torture and other serious harms. ERI was involved in a case in U.S. federal court over Shell’s complicity in the killings, torture and severe abuses committed by the Nigerian military against individual Ogoni in the early 1990s. That case was only settled in 2009 when Shell agreed to pay $15.5 million, which allowed for the creation of a trust for the Ogoni people and compensation for the victims in the case and their surviving relatives.
For more background on the Wiwa v Shell case, check out this report by Al-Jazeera, New York.