Human rights case puts Shell on trial for Saro-Wiwa murder

6 Apr 2009 admin

Monday 6 April 2009

On May 27th 2009, oil multinational Shell could stand trial in a Federal District Court in New York for complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria, including the summary execution of writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his Ogoni colleagues on November 10th 1995. The other charges against Shell include complicity in crimes against humanity, torture, arbitrary arrest and detainment. This landmark human rights case was filed by U.S based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and EarthRights International (ERI). Last Friday, Chief Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York ordered that the trial would be postponed from 27th April to 26th May- the date was subsequently shifted forward by one day to 27th May.

ERI will join international artists and activists in London on 6th April, 6.30pm at Amnesty International UK to answer questions about the case, including why the Anglo-Dutch oil giant is standing trial in the U.S., as opposed to the UK. This event is hosted by PLATFORM’s remember saro-wiwa project in collaboration with AFROGROOV. Leading performance poet Zena Edwards, Nigerian rap artist Breis and percussionist Babacar Dieng will close the event.

Tonight, a global campaign will be launched by a coalition of NGOs including PLATFORM, Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Greenpeace UK. The campaign will coincide with the Wiwa vs Shell trial, and will hold Shell accountable for its ongoing gas flaring in Nigeria, which burns off an estimated $2.5 billion of gas annually and emits more carbon dioxide than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa combined.

The plaintiffs, including relatives of Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues, eagerly await Shell’s day in court, long after the injury and death of their loved ones. The trial could result in the first successful prosecution brought under the Alien Torts Statute, which give non-U.S. citizens the right to file suits in U.S. courts for international human rights violations. If found liable, Shell would be forced to pay damages that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. The trial comes after a 12-year legal battle in which Shell has made repeated efforts to have the case thrown out of court in the U.S. Activists are hopeful that the trial will boost efforts by oil-affected communities to hold multinationals such as Shell accountable for environmental and human rights abuses.

Jen Nessel from the Center for Constitutional Rights said, ‘While Shell didn’t tighten the noose or pull the trigger, they played a critical supporting role for which they must be held accountable. U.S. law demands that human rights violators, including multinational corporations, be held liable for the atrocities they commit. May 26th could see Ken Saro Wiwa’s prophesy fulfilled that Shell would one day be on trial for what it did to the Ogoni people.’

‘Shell refuses to apologize for its role in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa,’ said Ben Amunwa, of PLATFORM. ‘Worse still, Shell continue to pollute and flare gas with impunity in the Niger Delta, poisoning land and aggravating locals. The legitimate grievances of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni remain unaddressed, Shell’s ongoing environmental abuses fan the flames of conflict between oil companies and host communities. We, at remember saro-wiwa and its partners will call for more accountability in the Niger Delta, and will not forget the heavy price paid by Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues in their campaign for social justice.’

Michael Mansfield QC said, “I have supported your campaign all the way through because Ken Saro-Wiwa provided a shining example of resistance to corporate greed.”

The Press Conference on April 6th from 6.30pm is free.

Refreshments available.

RSVP to [email protected]


Press enquiries:

Ben Amunwa (mobile) 07891 454 714 or 0207 357 0055
(email) [email protected]


Notes to editors:

* The following speakers will be at the press conference and are available for interview:

Katie Redford, Co-Founder and US Office Director, EarthRights International
Katie is a U.S. lawyer and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI’s landmark case Doe v. Unocal. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, In 2006, Katie was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.

John Sauven, Director Greenpeace UK
See for statements and interviews with John Sauven from Greenpeace UK.

Michael Peel, writer and journalist, Financial Times
Michael Peel is a Financial Times journalist and former West Africa correspondent of the paper. His book A Swamp Full of Dollars: Paramilitaries and Pipelines at Nigeria’s Oil Frontier is due to be published in June 2009.

Ka Hsaw Wa, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Earth Rights International
Ka Hsaw Wa was one of the student leaders in the 1988 nation-wide student uprising for democracy and freedom. He collected evidence that served as a cornerstone in the ground-breaking lawsuit against Unocal. Ka Hsaw Wa has been awarded many prizes for his work in defense of human rights and the environment including the Goldman Environmental Prize, whose alumni include Ken Saro-Wiwa.

** Remember Saro-Wiwa is a coalition of organisations initiated and co-ordinated by PLATFORM, including: African Writers Abroad, Amnesty International UK, Christian Aid, Diversity Art Forum, English PEN, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace UK, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, Mayor of London, Minorities of Europe, People & Planet, Anita & Gordon Roddick, South Bank Centre, SpinWatch and Stakeholder Democracy Network.

Financial supporters include: Arts Council England – London, The Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation, Greenpeace UK, The Roddick Foundation, The Staples Trust, The Tedworth Trust, Wallace Global Fund, PLATFORM, and private individuals.

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