Suit: Shell complicit in execution of Nigerian rights activist

(RAW STORY)   A landmark human rights lawsuit, accusing Royal Dutch Shell of complicity in the execution of author and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa some 14 years ago, will proceed to trial in a New York courtroom. 

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Earth Rights International, along with Mr. Wiwa’s son, allege the International oil company “financed, armed, and otherwise colluded with the Nigerian military forces that used deadly force and conducted massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta.”

They claim Shell was complicit in the 1995 military executions of nine activist leaders, including Ken Saro-Wiwa.

“Shell began oil production in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in 1958,” the groups say on a new Web site dedicated to promoting the suit. “After more than 30 years of environmental devastation and exploitation by Shell, a popular nonviolent movement of the Ogoni people developed in the early 1990s in opposition to its presence in the region. At the request of Shell, and with Shell’s assistance and financing, Nigerian soldiers used deadly force and massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people throughout the early 1990s to repress the growing movement against the oil company.”

“Ken Saro-Wiwa, with eight other Ogoni rights activists, was executed by Nigeria’s military dictatorship in 1995,” reported the Guardian. “The men were a constant irritant to the generals, reminding the world that their lands in the Niger Delta were being wrecked and their health and livelihoods destroyed by gas flaring, oil spills and military attacks. Imprisonment and beatings failed to shut them up. So the government constructed false charges against these men, paid people to pose as witnesses and hanged them.”

“The suit says the company tried to bribe two men to testify against Saro-Wiwa at his trial before a special tribunal,” reported the Financial Times.

“‘Almost daily you get a reminder that your father was hanged for a crime he didn’t commit,’ Mr Saro-Wiwa Jr told the Financial Times. ‘We’ve always maintained that Shell was complicit in the conspiracy to silence my father and thousands of other Ogonis.’

“Shell says the allegations contained in the case are false and that the company appealed for clemency for Saro-Wiwa. ‘We in no way encouraged or advocated any acts of violence against Ken Saro-Wiwa or the other Ogonis,’ said Rainer Winzenried, a Shell spokesman. ‘We believe that the evidence will show clearly that Shell was not responsible for these tragic events.'”

“Shell accounts for more than 40% of Nigeria’s total petroleum production of 899,000 barrels per day from more than eighty fields,” noted Persian network PressTV.

“Oil revenues account for 90% of Nigerian export earnings and 80% of the government’s total revenue. Shell accounts for just over half of Nigeria’s total production.”

Chief Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York ordered the trial to go forward May 26.

“Shell could be forced to pay millions of dollars in damages if found responsible in the case that was first filed in 1996 by the family of Saro-Wiwa, an environmentalist and author,” reported Reuters.

The following video was published to YouTube by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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