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Shell Nigeria Must Face Human-Rights Lawsuit in U.S.

By David Glovin

June 3 (Bloomberg) — Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria, an affiliate ofRoyal Dutch Shell Plc, must face a lawsuit accusing it of crimes against humanity, a U.S. federal court ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York today reinstated a case against Shell Nigeria, which a lower-court judge had dismissed last year. A related human-rights suit against Royal Dutch Shell was scheduled to go to trial last month and has been postponed indefinitely.

The appeals court also ordered the trial-court judge to reconsider rulings barring the plaintiffs from obtaining documents from Shell Nigeria. Judith Brown Chomsky, one of the lawyers suing Shell and Shell Nigeria, said the plaintiffs are now “optimistic” they’ll get more documents.

“This is another step in holding Shell Nigeria accountable for its role in the human-rights violations,” Chomsky said in a statement.

A hearing scheduled for today in the case against Royal Dutch Shell was postponed. Shell Nigeria is part of Royal Dutch Shell as an “indirect subsidiary,” Chomsky said in an interview.

Both companies are accused by relatives of activists killed from 1990 to 1995 in Nigeria of helping the government carry out attacks. The appeals court said in its ruling today that the U.S. court had sufficient jurisdiction over Shell Nigeria.

A spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell, based in The Hague, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The case is Wiwa v. Shell Petroleum, 08-1803, U.S. Court of Appeals (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: David Glovin in U.S. District Court in New York at [email protected].

Last Updated: June 3, 2009 13:59 EDT 

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