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Will Oprah Winfrey portray Esther Kiobel in a movie about her epic battle with Shell? 

If Esther does eventually win her case, it will make the Erin Brockovich story look a tea party by comparison.

By John Donovan

The above headline may be premature but it really could be just a matter of time.

Last Thursday, 31 August, an application was filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to film an appeal hearing made by Shell’s US lawyers Cravath, Swaine & Moore opposing an order made by a federal judge in favour of Esther Kiobel.

The application was made by Freke Vuijst a US correspondent of Dutch media and also covers her cameraman Martijn Hart. The applicant reveals that she is currently involved in the making of a film documentary about the case. The application says: “The above mentioned case is of direct interest to the Dutch public, since Esther Kiobel filed a case in the Netherlands.”

Hundreds of news articles have been published around the globe in the last two decades about Esther’s fight for justice on behalf of her late husband Dr. Barinem Kiobel, who was murdered by the corrupt Nigerian Sani Abacha regime in direct collaboration with Shell.

As CNN recently reported, Esther Kiobel first filed a case in New York against Shell in 2002 alleging complicity in the execution of the nine human rights activists (including her husband). However, in 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled that the United States did not have jurisdiction to try the case. (Text in italics taken directly from the CNN report).

On 28 June 2017, Esther Kiobel filed basically the same action against Shell, but this time in its home country, the Netherlands.

Esther also successfully applied in the US courts to obtain access to Shell’s discovery – over 100,000 Shell internal items, documents, transcripts, statements and communications – gathered by Shell for the 2002 action, which Shell managed to torpedo. Cravath is trying to have that decision reversed.

Hence two separate actions instigated by Esther Kiobel are currently underway – one in the US and the other in the Netherlands.

Thus far, for a shameful period of 22 years, according to CNN, Shell has managed to prevent the Kiobel case against Shell for its actions in Nigeria from being heard in court. It has used its international army of lawyers to prevent that happening.

If Esther does eventually win her case, it will make the Erin Brockovich story look a tea party by comparison. Just glance through the English version of the Dutch Writ of Summons to see the breathtaking scope of the allegations supported by listed evidence. Access to Shell’s vast array of discovery held in the USA will make the Dutch case even stronger.

THE APPLICATION TO FILM THE COURT HEARING:

Kiobel Appeal Document 117

Disclosure: The lead claimant Esther Kiobel, Channa Samkalden of the Dutch human rights law firm Prakken d’Oliveira representing the widows, and the acclaimed human rights organisation Amnesty International, have all acknowledged the involvement of John Donovan in bringing *this case. (*See Writ of Summons in English and Dutch served on Shell 28 June 2017 – copy obtained from US Pacer public electronic court records)

Shell blanket denial: Shell’s blanket denial of any responsibility for the ‘Ogoni Nine’ executions and related events/allegations can be read here. The denial does not explain why Shell settled for $15.5 million in June 2009 a case legally and substantively the same.

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