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U.S. Supreme Court Esther Kiobel decision on Monday 7 Jan 2019

Esther Kiobels’ late husband Dr Barinem Kiobel was one of the “Ogoni 9” executed by hanging two decades ago by a corrupt Nigerian military regime in bed with Shell. Esther holds Shell responsible for complicity in her husbands’ death and has sought justice ever since.

Her action in the U.S. courts against Shell which commenced in 1996, took a decade to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Their decision on a legal technicality ended the litigation. In a precedent-setting decision, the U.S. Supreme court decided in April 2012 that Esther could not sue Shell in the USA for human rights crimes that took place in a foreign jurisdiction – Nigeria.

At that point, Esther contacted me to see if I could help, as she needed funding for any further litigation and advice on how best to proceed.

Astonishingly, Esther’s basic case has never been heard in court. Shell has successfully blocked her litigation for over 20 years by exploiting legal technicalities. 

I introduced her to a Dutch law firm with the intention of suing Shell in its home country. With the help and support of Amnesty International, a Writ was served on Shell in the Netherlands in June 2017. That litigation is in progress with the first court hearing due next month.

In preparation for the Dutch litigation, Esther applied to the U.S. courts in Oct 2016 for access to Shell discovery assembled for the thwarted U.S. litigation. The action was against Shell’s U.S. law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP who had retained 100,000 plus discovery items in a secure warehouse.

A U.S. Federal judge ordered Cravath to hand over the Shell internal discovery docs. Cravath appealed against his decision on 14 February 2018, and his decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Lawyers acting for Esther then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

On Monday 7 Jan 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to do so.

So two U.S. Supreme Court wins for commercial Goliath (Shell) and nothing but disappointment for the destitute outraged widow of a Nigerian official hanged on trumped-up charges by a corrupt Nigerian despot carrying out Shell’s ruthless orders.

The trial was widely discredited. The verdict ignited global outrage. It led to Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth.

Esther now lives in the USA where she is training to be a nurse.

Below is a link (and screenshot) for the U.S. Supreme Court website confirming the decision to decline the Petition.

Related article on a U.S court reporting website operating behind a paywall:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a Nigerian activist’s widow who asked the court to review the Second Circuit’s decision barring her from obtaining Royal Dutch Shell PLC documents held by Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP for her suit against the energy giant in the Netherlands…

Disclosure by the author of this article: The lead claimant Esther Kiobel, her lawyer 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)

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

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