Activists put Shell under fire as trial approaches

14 May 2009 admin
Shell gas flare at Rumuekpe which sits just next to a large community and is surrounded by agricultural land.
Shell gas flare at Rumuekpe which sits just next to a large community and is surrounded by agricultural land.

London & Den Haag

With one week to go until Shell stand trial in New York for human rights abuses including the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa, activists will turn up the heat on Shell at their AGM next Tuesday 19th May. Spectacular fire-breathing performance and protests in London will bring Shell’s gas flaring in the Niger Delta to the attention of shareholders. Campaigners will petition investors, angry at the company’s generous remuneration package, to demand that Van der Veer’s pension go towards ending the harmful practice of gas flaring.

The protest is organised by ShellGuilty, a new coalition including Friends of the Earth, Oil Change International, PLATFORM and remember saro-wiwa which is pressing for an end to Shell’s environmental irresponsibility and human rights abuses. The protest marks the start of an International Week of Action against Shell’s abuses, bringing together activists from across the globe. The campaign’s chief demand is an end to gas flaring in the Niger Delta. The practice poisons communities, emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases, and wastes approximately $2.5 billion of natural gas annually.

Richard Howlett campaigner at PLATFORM said: “Shareholders need to start worrying more about Shell’s impact on the planet than the impact of the company’s pension packages on their pockets. Shell are planning to invest $5bn in tar sands – the dirtiest means of oil extraction. This money would more than cover the cost of ending gas flaring in Nigeria. Shell needs to wake up to its responsibility for environmental devastation’

Anne van Schaik of Friends of the Earth Netherlands said: “In addition to the trial in New York, Shell also faces legal action in the Netherlands, the first time Shell has had to defend itself in a Dutch court. Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Nigerian plaintiffs are bringing an action over repeated oil spills in the Niger Delta.”

“We hope the Dutch judge will decide that Shell HQ is accountable for the company’s operations worldwide and that the company will be forced to clean up the pollution and compensate the victims properly.”

Steve Kretzmann from Oil Change International added: ‘We are glad to see Shell finally being held to account for their human rights abuses in this month’s trial. But for justice to really be done the illegal gas flaring Ken Saro Wiwa died fighting against must end’.


U.K.: Richard Howlett, Platform, +44-207-357-0055, +44-7960-456-594, [email protected]

Netherlands: Anne van Schaik, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, +31-20-5507387, +31-6-21829589, [email protected]


The London protest and performance will take place at 9.30am GMT on Tuesday 19th May at the Silk Street entrance to the Barbican Centre. Pictures will be available afterwards.

Gas flares are open-air fires that burn natural gas that is released when oil is extracted from the ground. A World Bank study concluded that flaring in the Rivers and Delta states in Nigeria releases 35 million tons of carbon dioxide and 12 million tons of methane each year – equivalent to the annual global warming pollution of 56 coal plants or 47 million cars. Gas flares are toxic and harmful to human health, which is why they are strictly regulated in countries such as the United States or the UK But because such flaring is cheap when environmental and human costs are not taken into consideration, Shell and other oil companies have burned gas flares continuously for decades in countries like Nigeria.

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 will be forced to face this evidence in US federal district court in New York City in a trial that begins May 26th. On April 23rd, Judge Kimba Wood rejected Shell’s last-ditch attempt to avoid trial, rejecting the company’s claim that the court did not have jurisdiction to consider the case.

For more information visit


PLATFORM is a U.K.-based 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.

Friends of the Earth International ( is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 70 countries. We campaign 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. We are dedicated to identifying and overcoming political barriers to that transition.

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