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Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

By a Guest Contributor

I have been following this sorry saga of the British and Dutch governments filing a brief with the US courts claiming that a ‘corporation’ could not be held liable for human rights violations and was therefore not subject to human rights laws.

Excuse me, but I think it may be time to revisit the legal proceedings that we commonly refer to as the ‘Nuremberg Trials’ that were held shortly after the Second World War. As I recall a number of German industrialists were in fact placed on the list of wanted ‘war criminals’ for their complicity with the Nazi government in the commission of what we (the civilized Western World) considered to be ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’. As I recall German industrialists were also prosecuted for those acts. However, it has been many years since I have gone through those proceedings (I studied them in my college history classes), so my memory is a bit fuzzy.

The notion that a corporation cannot be held liable for crimes against humanity (torture, kidnapping, rape, murder, extortion, etc.), which in the US would be considered felony misconduct, is absurd. Corporations in the States are held liable for felony and criminal misconduct on a regular basis. As a consequence of that conduct they are fined, sanctioned, and in other ways penalized and punished for the ‘collective’ misbehavior of corporate employees. Furthermore, under US law the so-called ‘corporate veil’ does not protect employees, corporate officers, management, or board members from prosecution for being willing accessories and conspirators in felony misconduct. They can face criminal prosecution, fines and imprisonment for the participation in criminal misconduct. Many a corporate manager, officer, etc., has gone to prison for the commission of a felony/s.

It would seen to me that the British and Dutch governments are, in effect, trying to argue that ‘crimes against humanity’ are not, and should not be, the equivalent of ‘felony misconduct’, if an individual is employed by a corporation and not working for a governmental organization. This is an absurd notion. Again, I thought the Nuremberg Trials settled that issue. Someone please correct me if I am in error. It appears to me that the British and Dutch governments are trying to head off potential criminal prosecution of former, and perhaps current, Royal Dutch Shell board members, officers, etc., for (alleged) complicity in torture, murder, etc. In the States, many of these crimes have no statutes of limitations.

If we let corporations get away with torture, and murder, etc., then it will become a simple matter for a government to contract out its ‘dirty business’, and proceed ahead with all manner of nefarious misconduct.

I find the legal arguments, such as they are, that are being made by the British and Dutch governments to be highly odious and hypocritical in the extreme. If Royal Dutch Shell and Shell employees were in fact complicit in the commission of the alleged crimes, then they should be prosecuted accordingly.

There appears to be clear precedent within the US legal system for considering a case against Royal Dutch Shell relating to ‘human rights’ violations and ‘crimes against humanity’. The Krupp and IG Farben Nuremberg trials are examples:

Nuremberg Trials – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Subsequent Nuremberg Trials – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Krupp Trial – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


IG Farben Trial – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The following is a link to a summary of the trials:

The Subsequent Nuremberg Trials: An Overview

More interesting discussions on the concept of ‘international criminal law’:

The Influence Of The Nuremberg Trial On International Criminal Law ...

Do Corporations Have Immunity For Crimes Against Humanity …

It would seem to me that the British and Dutch governments do not have much of an argument in the US court system.

However, when ‘politics’ gets involved, just about anything is possible, including incredible (racial) hypocrisy.

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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