Royal Dutch Shell to Go to Trial for Complicity in Torture and Murder of Nigerian Protesters

New York, October 8, 2008 — Yesterday, Judge Kimba Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York set a trial date of February 9, 2009 for a human rights and racketeering case against the Royal Dutch Shell company (Shell) and the head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson. The case was first filed in 1996. The judge rejected Shell’s attempt to file additional legal motions to postpone a trial date.

“We are looking forward to finally bringing Shell into court, where we will prove their role in the torture and murder of our clients and their pattern of human rights abuses,” said CCR attorney Jennie Green. “It's time for our clients and their families to see justice.”

Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Wiwa v. Anderson are two lawsuits filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel from EarthRights International on behalf of relatives of murdered activists who were fighting for human rights and environmental justice in Nigeria. The cases charge the corporation and this key official for their complicity in the November 10, 1995 hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other leaders in the nonviolent opposition to Shell’s pattern of human rights abuses and environmental destruction: John Kpuinen, Saturday Doobee, Daniel Gbokoo, Felix Nuate, and Dr. Barinem Kiobel. The cases also include charges for the torture, detention, and forced exile of Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s brother, Dr. Owens Wiwa, and Michael Tema Vizor; and the shooting of Karololo Kogbara and Uebari N-nah in two attacks on peaceful protestors.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jr., the son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, issued the following statement on behalf of his family:
The family and all those who have had their human rights abused in resource bearing communities are humbled and greatly encouraged by this news. It is a relief that after 12 years we have finally vindicated Ken Saro-Wiwa's insistence that Shell will one day have its day in court. We hope, ultimately, that this will reinforce the message that non-violence and the rule of law are the foundations of true justice, especially at a time when the unacceptable legacy of injustice poses a clear and present danger to lives, the environment and energy security in the Niger Delta and around the globe. We welcome the decision of the judge and would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Center for Constitutional Rights and other people of conscience who have stayed the course.
The defendants are charged with complicity in human rights abuses against the Ogoni people in Nigeria, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrest, wrongful death, assault and battery, and infliction of emotional distress. The cases were brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The case against Royal Dutch/Shell also alleges that the corporation violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Nigeria has been chief among Shell’s assets for many years. Critics charge that with the aim of production at any cost, regardless of the damage to the surrounding people and land, Shell disrupted thousands of lives and wreaked havoc on the environment. In the early 1990’s, the people of Nigeria began to protest. Shell made payments and provided arms to security forces that they knew to be abusive to local communities. The military government violently repressed the demonstrations and arrested and bribed witnesses. Nine leaders of the demonstrations were murdered, including the aforementioned well-known activist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa.

In addition to CCR and ERI, the plaintiffs are represented by CCR cooperating attorneys Judith Brown Chomsky, Anthony DiCaprio and Beth Stephens, and Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman.

For complete pdf’s of the legal briefs and further background information, visit the Wiwa et al v. Royal Dutch Petroleum et al case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

December 17, 2009