June 8, 2009 - Today, plaintiffs and defendants reached a settlement in the human rights cases brought against Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Shell Transport and Trading, p.l.c., Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, and Brian Anderson, who headed Shell Nigeria between 1994-1996.
We want to express our satisfaction that these cases have provided the plaintiffs with substantial compensation for their claims. After 13 years of fighting these cases, our clients now have resources which will allow them to start to rebuild their lives. We are also pleased that, although this settlement is only for our clients’ own claims and they did not negotiate on behalf of the Ogoni people, this settlement has the potential to benefit thousands of other people in Ogoni.
The Ogoni people have many outstanding issues with Shell, and it is Shell’s responsibility to resolve those issues with the Ogoni people themselves. The Plaintiffs do not speak for the Ogoni people, nor have they attempted to resolve those issues.
One of the aspects of the settlement is to establish The Kiisi Trust. “Kiisi” means “progress” in the Ogoni languages. The Trust will fund education, health, community development and other benefits for the Ogoni people and their communities, including educational endowments, skills development, women’s programs, agricultural development, small enterprise support, and adult literacy.
The Trust Deed was made by the Estate of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Owens Wiwa, the Estate of John Kpuinen, Karalolo Kogbara, Michael Tema Vizor, the Estate of Saturday Doobee, the Estate of Felix Nuate, the Estate of Daniel Gbokoo, the Children of Barinem and Peace Kiobel, and the Estate of Uebari N-nah. This trust will facilitate community participation in decisions related to the use and enjoyment of the Trust Fund, and emphasizes the importance of transparency in its operations. The dispute between Shell and the Ogoni people remains unresolved.
We thank our clients, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jr., Owens Wiwa, Blessing Kpuinen, Karalolo Kogbara, Michael Tema Vizor, Lucky Doobee, Friday Nuate, Monday Gbokoo, David Kiobel, and James N-nah. Their long, unfailing struggle for justice for their own families and for justice and dialogue in Ogoni has led us to this settlement, which is a step in the movement for justice and peace in Ogoni. We also thank Patrick Naagbanton for his invaluable assistance to the legal team throughout this long process.
In the 13-year struggle to expose Shell’s role in the suppression of the Ogoni people and their peaceful movement, we have been carried forward by the determination of the plaintiffs and the encouragement of their supporters. Their fortitude has helped to establish a principle that goes beyond Shell and Nigeria. Every corporation, like every individual, should be held to the same universal human rights standards the world over.
The agreements reached today comprise one of a handful of successful settlements in corporate cases brought for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 statute that allows victims of human rights abuses from around the world to sue the perpetrators in U.S. courts. Since 1997, in Doe v. Unocal, the courts have made clear that multinational corporations can also be sued for human rights violations such as extrajudicial execution, torture and crimes against humanity, as charged in this case.
The settlement represents one more step towards holding corporations accountable for complicity in human rights violations, wherever they may be committed. We hope that this settlement provides another building block in the efforts to forge a legal system that holds violators accountable wherever they may be and prevents future violations.
Center for Constitutional Rights
Judith Chomsky, Cooperating Attorney
Jennie Green, Senior Staff Attorney
Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney
Beth Stephens, Cooperating Attorney
Debbie Gordon, Attorney
Anthony DiCaprio, Attorney and Counselor at Law
Marco Simons, Legal Director
Rick Herz, Litigation Coordinator
Jonathan Kaufman, Legal Fellow
Jacqui Zalcberg, Legal Fellow
Abby Rubinson, Human Rights Attorney
Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman
Paul Hoffman, Trial Counsel
Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll
Agnieszka Fryszman, Partner
Molly McCowen, International Human Rights Fellow
Tarek Maassarani, International Human Rights Fellow
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 ccrjustice.org.