Processing Magazine

Supreme Court to Hear Bid to Sue Shell for Nigerian Abuses

October 17, 2011

The Supreme Court said it will use a dispute between Nigerian villagers and oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC to decide whether corporations may be held liable in U.S. courts for alleged human rights abuses overseas, reports the Associated Press. The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling in favor of Shell. The case centers on the 222-year-old Alien Tort Statute that has been increasingly used in recent years to sue corporations for alleged abuses abroad. The Nigerians argue Shell was complicit in torture and other crimes against humanity in the country''s oil-rich Ogoni region in the Niger Delta. A divided panel of federal appeals court judges in New York said the 18th century law may not be used against corporations. More recently, appellate judges in Washington said it could. The Nigerians'' lawsuit stems from alleged human rights violations between 1992 and 1995. The suit claims that Shell was eager to stop protests about continuing oil exploration in the area and was complicit in Nigerian government actions that included fatal shootings, rapes, beatings, arrests and property destruction.