This quote comes from the Second Circuit (the federal court that is one rung on the ladder above a trial court and one rung below the Supreme Court). Yup, the same court in New York that later decided that crazy Kiobel case (more on that here), but in 2000, when they were looking at a law that Congress passed to give people who were tortured a cause of action (meaning, the right to go to court and sue the defendant who hurt them), here’s what they said:
(If you’re a lawyer or just someone who really likes citations, here you go: Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 226 F.3d 88, 106 (2d Cir. 2000). And if you’d like the full opinion, click here.)
So what was this case about? We explain below, using the same opinion from which we got the quote above:
The defendants? Royal Dutch Petroleum, which is based in the Netherlands, and Shell Transport, a holding company based in England, who together operate the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, “a vast, international, vertically integrated network of affiliated but formally independent oil and gas companies.” One of those companies is Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Ltd., which operates in the Ogoni region of Nigeria.
The plaintiffs? People living in the region of Nigeria who were “imprisoned, tortured, and killed” by the Nigerian government who, plaintiffs say, the company recruited to do these things because it wanted to end the plaintiffs’ protests against oil exploration in their land. The plaintiffs, part of the Ogoni community, said that Shell Nigeria took their land without paying them fairly for it and then polluted the air and water in the homeland of the Ogoni people. Ken Saro-Wiwa (where we get the name of the case) was an opposition leader and President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MSOP). In 1995, Mr. Saro-Wiwa and another leader were hanged, along with other Ogoni leaders, after being
convicted of murder by a special military tribunal. Plaintiffs say that the leaders were convicted on phony evidence solely to silence political criticism and were not given the legal protections they deserved under the law.
If you’d like to learn even more, here’s a website dedicated entirely to the case run by the groups who represent the plaintiffs and here is a statement by Shell about “the Ogoni issue” (looks like it might need to be updated) and a statement by a Shell executive after the parties settled the case (to which we give props for recognizing that thirteen years of fighting in court is just too long).
Sadly, there are STILL big human rights issues in Nigeria today. We’ll talk more about this in another blog (stay tuned!) but if you want a preview (including some videos) click here.
Questions? Comments? As always, we’d love to hear from you! Talk to us here, on ourFacebook page, or tweet to us @phbalancedfilms. Have a great weekend!