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article imageRoyal Dutch Shell agrees to settlement with Nigerians

By Bob Ewing     Jun 9, 2009 in World
Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to a $15.5 million out-of-court settlement in a case that accuses the company of complicity in human rights abuses in Niger Delta, Nigeria.
The case was brought by relatives of nine anti-oil campaigners who were hanged in 1995 by Nigeria's then military rulers. The anti-oil campaigners included author Ken Saro-Wiwa.
The company claims it did nothing wrong and says the payment is part of a "process of reconciliation".
The case was initiated 13 years ago and was due for trial in the US next week.
The case was brought under a 1789 federal law which allows US courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign nationals over actions that take place abroad.
The basis of this case was that Shell was complicit in murder, torture and other abuses by Nigeria's former military government against campaigners in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
The nine victims were members of the Ogoni ethnic group from the Niger Delta. They had all been campaigning for the rights of the local people and protesting the pollution caused by the oil industry.
A military tribunal convicted them over the 1994 murder of four local leaders and they were executed.
They were executed after being convicted by a military tribunal over the 1994 murder of four local leaders. A global wave of protets followed the executions.
Paul Hoffman, a lawyer for the Nigerian families, said."We litigated with Shell for 13 years and, at the end of the day, the plaintiffs are going to be compensated for the human-rights violations they suffered."
"Had we tried the case and won, the plaintiffs were still looking at years of appeals." he added.
The fine will be dispersed as follows; $5m would go into a trust to benefit the people of Ogoniland - the area Ken Saro-Wiwa was seeking to protect. The rest would go to the plaintiffs and to pay the costs of litigation.
Marco Simons, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the settlement a "very significant milestone."
Shell official Malcolm Brinded said it "acknowledges that, even though Shell had no part in the violence that took place, the plaintiffs and others have suffered."
The lawsuit alleged Shell officials helped to supply Nigerian police with weapons during the 1990s.
It claimed that Shell participated in security sweeps in parts of Ogoniland and hired government troops that shot at villagers who protested against a pipeline.
In addition it alleged that Shell helped the government capture and hang Ken Saro-Wiwa and several of his colleagues.
"Shell has always maintained the allegations were false," said Brinded.
"While we were prepared to go to court to clear our name, we believe the right way forward is to focus on the future for Ogoni people, which is important for peace and stability in the region."
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