“Ogoni 9” case back in the spotlight, this time in the Netherlands

The families of nine environment and human rights activists executed by the Nigerian government in 1995, have their hopes for justice pinned on a court in the Netherlands, where a preliminary round was argued this week.

The fight for justice for the “Ogoni 9” moved to the Hague this week where representatives of nine men, executed by Nigeria’s military government in 1995, argued that this was an appropriate forum to deal with their case and gave evidence of the trauma of the men's secret trial and execution.

The families want to sue Royal Dutch/Shell in the Netherlands and claim that the petroleum giant gave help to the Nigerian troops at the time. They say that Shell played a significant role in the “unlawful arrest, detention and execution” of their husbands.

According to the families, this Shell did by providing transport and allowing its property to be used as “staging areas” for attacks against the Ogoni – a region where protests were rife against the environmental damage caused by oil extraction.

After the case failed in the USA over jurisdictional questions relating to alleged violations of international law, four of the “Ogoni 9” widows launched their civil case against Shell in the Netherlands.

During this week’s argument in the case, brought with the support of Amnesty International, two of the widows who testified said they wanted compensation and a public apology from Shell.

Commenting on the case, Amnesty International’s Mark Dummett said this was the first time, in a battle for justice spanning more than 20 years, that the women have been able to tell their stories in court. “These women believe that their husbands would still be alive today were it not for the brazen self-interest of Shell, which encouraged the Nigerian government’s bloody crackdown on protesters even when it knew the human cost.”  

He added that the case had wider ramifications, calling it an “historic moment” with great significance “for people everywhere who have been harmed by the greed and recklessness of global corporations.”

Shell has denied the allegations of complicity, saying the executions were “tragic events which shocked us deeply”. The company also says that the evidence “clearly shows” that Shell was not responsible for these “distressing events”.

A decision on this part of the case is expected on 8 May 2019.