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Documents show UK Government caved in to Shell lobbying

Graphics from The Guardian article Unloveable Shell, the Goddess of Oil by Andrew Rowell, published 15th Nov 1997

“Are there any principles that the UK government is willing to stand up for in the face of business lobbying? Apparently not, if documents released through a Freedom of Information request are anything to go by. These show, in detail, how the UK intervened to support Shell and Rio Tinto in high-profile US human rights court cases, following requests from the companies. The Kiobel case was brought against the oil giant by communities from the Niger Delta, who accused Shell of helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s.”

Extracts from an article published by Amnesty International under the headline: “The documents that show our Government caved in to corporate lobbying”

Are there any principles that the UK government is willing to stand up for in the face of business lobbying? Apparently not, if documents released through a Freedom of Information request are anything to go by.

These show, in detail, how the UK intervened to support Shell and Rio Tinto in high-profile US human rights court cases, following requests from the companies.

The documents, obtained by the Corporate Responsibility Coalition (of which we’re a part), relate to the UK government’s intervention in two cases: Kiobel-v-Shell and Sarei-v-Rio Tinto.

The Kiobel case was brought against the oil giant by communities from the Niger Delta, who accused Shell of helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s.

The US Supreme court halted the case against Shell a year ago, accepting the arguments from both Shell and the UK Government that cases of this kind shouldn’t be taken in the US.

The UK government has effectively supported the corporations in ducking out of scrutiny in the US courts. Why would the government want to prevent UK companies from being held accountable in the US courts for complicity in human rights violations as serious as torture and murder?

‘both BIS [Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] and CEDD [Commercial and Economic Diplomacy Department at the FCO] believe that the prosperity and potentially significant commercial considerations in this case weigh in favour of the UK submitting an amicus brief.’
FOI request page 52

The Freedom of Information request shows the Government was well aware that its intervention would be seen as inconsistent with its approach to human rights. It knew that these cases are exceptional and relate only to the most serious corporate abuses. It was aware of the reputational consequences, and that Amnesty and other human rights groups would be outraged when we found out – but still, they decided to pursue this course of action.

FULL ARTICLE

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