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DUTCH FD: Judges ask Nigerian widows for more evidence in Shell case

The four widows claim that the Shell operating company has bribed eight witnesses. Those witnesses are said to have played an important role in the conviction, and thus have the death of their spouses partly on their conscience. Shell has always denied this. So the judge wants more evidence that the eight people have been bribed. “That could be done by hearing witnesses, for example.”

Printed below is an English translation of an article published today by the Dutch FT, Financieele Dagblad.

Carel Grol

Four Nigerian widows who litigate against Shell RDSA € 28.48 + 1.24% must provide tougher evidence. The court in The Hague ruled on that on Wednesday morning.

The Nigerian women Esther Kiobel (m) and Victoria Bera with their lawyer Channa Samkalden for the verdict at the court in The Hague. They are two of the widows who take Shell to court for the executions of their husbands in 1995. Photo: Bart Hoogveld for the FD

The case revolves around the execution of nine men from the Ogoni tribe in 1995. Widows of four of them are going to trial against Shell. The oil company is said to have conspired with the Nigerian state and to be partly responsible for the death of the nine men, the women claim.

Rebellion against Shell

The Ogoni, a people in southeastern Nigeria, revolted against the government and Shell in the early 90s. Their habitat was seriously polluted by oil extraction. Nine men were arrested in 1994 who would play a leading role in the Ogoni demonstrations. A year later they were hanged.

The relatives of four men, led by Esther Kiobel and Victoria Bera, have been fighting Shell for years. They want redress. Kiobel, who lives in the United States, initially sued the group in the US. The court in question did not consider itself competent to give judgment.

“Claim too general”

In 2017 the women in the Netherlands started a case against Shell. The session was in February, and the judge of the Court in The Hague delivered an interim judgment on Wednesday. The essence: the Dutch court is competent to rule and the case is not time-barred. Shell must also submit secret documents to the four widows.

The claim is that Shell, in prelude to the unrest of 1994, cooperated with the Nigerian government and that the two parties used excessive force, “too general in nature,” the judge said.

Photo: Bart Hoogveld for the FD

Has Shell done enough?

The widows say that Shell and his Nigerian operating company were well aware of the nine-man trial, which is often described as a sham trial. Shell should have spoken out against this, say the relatives.

Shell opted for silent diplomacy and also applied for leniency, according to the judge: “Informally, Shell has tried to exert influence.” According to Nigerian law, Shell was not obliged to do more, the judge says.

Bribe allegation

The four widows claim that the Shell operating company has bribed eight witnesses. Those witnesses are said to have played an important role in the conviction, and thus have the death of their spouses partly on their conscience. Shell has always denied this.

So the judge wants more evidence that the eight people have been bribed. “That could be done by hearing witnesses, for example.”

Photo: Bart Hoogveld for the FD

SOURCE

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