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U.S. Supreme Court to hear bid to sue Shell for Nigerian abuses

17 October 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says it will use a dispute between Nigerian villagers and oil giant Royal Dutch Shell to decide whether corporations may be held liable in U.S. courts for alleged human rights abuses overseas.

The justices said Monday they will review a federal appeals court ruling in favor of Shell. The case centers on the 222-year-old Alien Tort Statute that has been increasingly used in recent years to sue corporations for alleged abuses abroad.

The villagers argue Shell was complicit in torture and other crimes against humanity in the country’s oil-rich Ogoni region in the Niger Delta.

A divided panel of federal appeals court judges in New York said the 18th century law may not be used against corporations. More recently, appellate judges in Washington said it could.

ADDED BY JOHN DONOVAN: SHELL IN NIGERIA

Shell’s horrendous track record in Nigeria includes embedding spies in the Nigerian government; paying rival militant gangs; engaging in corruption (not only in Nigeria); arming police spies; using a private spy firm (Hakluyt) partly owned and controlled by Shell directors, to infiltrate Nigerian activists (friends of Ken Saro-Wiwa) and linking Shell with murder and human rights abuses which are the subject of the above case. Questions inevitably arise about financial linkage to Shell of the militants responsible for the repeated attacks against Shell pipelines and infrastructure over many years, which has driven up the cost of oil. Shell has such a shameful record in Nigeria, including plunder and pollution on an epic scale, that it has even considered ditching the Shell global brand name. Such a radical move would also distance the company from its Nazi past.

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