The Hague: Esther Kiobel vows to continue her campaign for justice

Human rights defender Esther Kiobel today lost her civil case against oil giant Shell, which she accuses of being involved in the 1995 execution of her husband by Nigeria’s military government, but has vowed to continue her campaign for justice. Esther has spent 27 years seeking justice for her husband Dr Barinem Kiobel, who was hanged along with eight other men in connection with widespread protests against oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

At a witness hearing in 2019, three men told a Dutch court that Shell and the Nigerian government had given them money and offered other bribes to incriminate Esther’s husband and eight other men, collectively known as the “Ogoni Nine”. But today, the court ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove Shell was involved.

Esther Kiobel brought the case against Shell along with three other women, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula, whose husband was also executed in 1995. Amnesty International research into historic injustices has revealed how Shell’s requests for ‘assistance’ in dealing with environmental protests led to action. brutal government crackdown, culminating in the unlawful arrest and execution of the women’s husbands, as well as well-known activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and four other men.

“It’s a disappointing result, but these extraordinarily brave women don’t give up. Their voices have been heard. They should be commended for their resilience and unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth, and for the invaluable work they have done to highlight the global culture of impunity for multinational companies accused of human rights abuses,” said Mark Dummett, Head of Business and Rights. Human Rights at Amnesty International.

“It took years of legal wrangling for Esther Kiobel to get Shell to confront her in the courtroom. Shell tries every trick in this book, from jurisdictional disputes to refusal to turn in important documents. The fact that it took the courts more than twenty years to hear Esther’s arguments is a grim indictment of how companies can avoid accountability for horrific crimes and human rights abuses. Despite today’s decision, Esther’s fight for justice was not in vain – her persistence is a powerful argument for change. The government should do more to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses, and allow victims to seek justice.”

Esther Kiobel fled Nigeria and settled in the US after her husband’s murder. He first filed a case against Shell in New York in 2002, but in 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled that the US had no jurisdiction to hear the case. In 2017, Amnesty International supported Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula in filing a new case against Shell in the Netherlands. The four plaintiffs allege Shell played a key role in the unlawful arrest and detention of their husbands; violation of the physical integrity of their husbands; and violation of their right to a fair trial and to life, and of their own right to family life. The case stalled when Shell refused to submit important documents related to the case, and it wasn’t until 2019 that the Hague District Court heard the women’s arguments for the first time.

Amnesty International has extensively detailed Shell’s role in the crackdown in Ogoniland. In a 2017 report, it was found that Shell repeatedly pushed the Nigerian military to tackle protests, even knowing this would lead to atrocities including murder, rape, torture and village burning. In the midst of these horrors, Shell provided material support to the military, and in at least one case paid a military commander known for human rights abuses.

Amnesty International has also uncovered evidence of serious negligence by Shell, whose irresponsible approach to the oil spill in the Niger Delta has exacerbated the environmental crisis and caused devastating pollution to the Ogoni community.

“One of the many tragedies in this case is that the spill from the Shell oil field is still wreaking havoc in the Niger Delta. The company said it is now leaving the region and is looking for a buyer. Before you do that, you have to finally pay attention to the demands of the community there – and clean up its dirty legacy,” says Mark Dummett.

“Shell has spent millions of dollars on the lawsuits she faces, but the money won’t be enough to clear her name.”

Distributed by the APO Group on behalf of Amnesty International.

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The Hague: Esther Kiobel vows to continue her campaign for justice

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