Shell settles Nigerian death case out of court

Slain environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa

Slain environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa

After 13 long years, Royal Dutch Shell has agreed a $15.5m (£9.7m) out-of-court settlement in a case of complicity stemming from the death of 9 anti-oil activists, including author, television producer, and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who were hanged in 1995 by Nigeria’s then military rulers.

Members of the Ogoni ethnic group from the Niger Delta, Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others had been campaigning for the rights of the local people and protesting emvironmental pollution caused by the oil industry.  They were executed after being convicted by a military tribunal over the 1994 murder of four local leaders.

Steadily denying wrongdoing, Shell says the payment is part of a “process of reconciliation”.

Judith Chomsky, of the US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and one of the lawyers who initiated the lawsuit, said the verdict sent a message that “corporations, like individuals, must abide by internationally recognised human rights standards”.

Paul Hoffman, a lawyer for the Nigerian families, said $5m would go into a trust to benefit the people of Ogoniland – the area Ken Saro-Wiwa was seeking to protect. The rest would go to the plaintiffs and to pay the costs of litigation.

This is a historic settlement, a rewarding conclusion to this drawn-out case, and a real victory for human rights.