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Amnesty International: Is Shell a criminal enterprise?

This report examines the role of the oil company Shell in the violations and crimes committed by the Nigeria security forces. It focuses specifically on the potential criminal liability of Shell and/or individual Shell executives. The governments of Nigeria and Shell’s home states, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom, should investigate, with a view to prosecution, Shell and/or individuals, who were formerly in decision-making or supervisory positions within the company, for potential involvement in crimes linked to human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces in Ogoniland in the 1990s.

Extract from page 13 of an Amnesty International document headed: “A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE? SHELL’S INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NIGERIA IN THE 1990s”

Under Executive Summary. Follows on from: COMPLICITY IN THE MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE AND EXECUTION OF THE OGONI NINE

EXTRACT BEGINS

CONCLUSION

That Nigeria’s government was responsible for grave human rights abuses during its campaign to crush the largely peaceful Ogoni protests during the 1990s is not in doubt. These human rights violations were carried out in response to community protests, and many occurred during armed attacks on defenceless Ogoni villages. Most of the violations of international human rights law detailed in this report also amount to crimes, potentially including murder or other unlawful killing, torture, a range of crimes related to physical assault, rape and destruction of property.

This report examines the role of the oil company Shell in the violations and crimes committed by the Nigeria security forces. It focuses specifically on the potential criminal liability of Shell and/or individual Shell executives. A person (including in some jurisdictions a “legal person”, such as a company) can be found guilty of the commission of a criminal offence either through direct or indirect actions (i.e. either as a principal or through their involvement as an accessory). The question of whether a company or its individual representatives are liable to prosecution for their involvement in criminal offences will depend on the specific crime and the legal framing in a given jurisdiction.

A range of legal concepts may apply, from complicity to aiding and abetting, to other prohibited involvement in the criminal acts. Within the corpus of criminal law, a number of actions are generally held to give rise to potential criminal liability. For example, criminal liability may arise when an individual or company encourages, enables, exacerbates or facilitates a criminal offence. Knowledge of the risks that corporate conduct could contribute to a crime, or wilfully blindness to such risk, may also lead to allegations that a company has criminal involvement, as could a close connection to the situation or the actors involved.

Following a detailed review of all of the evidence Amnesty International considers that Shell and specific executives should face investigation, with a view to prosecution, over their involvement in the crimes committed in Ogoniland in the 1990s. Shell repeatedly encouraged the Nigerian military and police to take action to deal with community protests

when the company knew this put lives at risk. Even when the risks came to fruition, and hundreds of Ogoni women, men and children had been killed or assaulted, Shell went back to the military and asked for their engagement. Although there is no evidence that Shell asked the military or police to execute or assault people, the company asked them to act when it knew that extrajudicial executions and assault were the likely outcome.

On several occasions Shell provided logistical assistance to military or police personnel – specifically transport. Without transporting the military or police to areas where community protests were occurring, it is likely that the subsequent violence would not have happened. While Shell might be forgiven for making this mistake once, providing the military with logistical support repeatedly to enable them to enter areas of community tensions amounts to enabling or facilitating the human rights violations or crimes. Again, Shell’s knowledge about the likely actions of the armed forces is critical here.

Finally, Shell’s relationship with the Nigerian authorities at the time gives rise to questions about its complicity or involvement in the violations and crimes. The company had significant access to senior figures, and was at times in daily contact with parts of the security forces. None of the hundreds of internal documents analysed reflect any attempt by Shell to express concern about the violence in Ogoniland.

Shell has always denied that the company was involved in the human rights violations and crimes that were carried out by the Nigerian state and armed forces.

RECOMMENDATION

The governments of Nigeria and Shell’s home states, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom, should investigate, with a view to prosecution, Shell and/or individuals, who were formerly in decision-making or supervisory positions within the company, for potential involvement in crimes linked to human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces in Ogoniland in the 1990s.

EXTRACT ENDS

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