Nigerian widows confront Shell in The Hague
The widows of four Nigerian activists executed by the military regime in the 1990 s launched a court case in the Netherlands Tuesday against oil giant Shell for complicity in their deaths .
Esther Kiobel, whose husband Barinem was hanged in 1995 along with famed writer Ken Saro - Wiwa and seven others, said the “ horrible ” experience had left her “ traumatised ” .
The widows allege that Anglo - Dutch Shell helped in the arrest of the men , who had sought to peacefully disrupt the oil giant ’ s work in Nigeria ’ s Ogoni region because of health and environmental impacts.
Shell said it was “inconceivable ” that it could have been involved in the death of the men .
Kiobel and one of the other widows, Victoria Bera , were in court in The Hague for opening arguments in the case against Shell , while the other two women whose husbands were killed were denied visas to attend.
“ My husband had a good heart . Now I am a poor widow who has lost everything , ” Kiobel was quoted as telling the court in The Hague by Dutch news agency ANP .
“ The abuses that my family and I went through were a horrible experience that has traumatised us to this day , ” added Kiobel, who fled Nigeria in 1998 and now lives in the United States .
Kiobel added : “We need justice, it’ s not about the money… I have been fighting for my murdered husband for 22 years now, so he can be acquitted of a crime he never committed . ”
Bera , who now lives in Canada , said her husband was guilty of nothing except protesting against Shell .
“ We wanted a fair share of the profit , but we got nothing, no light or water yet . Shell and Nigeria took the oil and we got nothing, ” she said .
– ‘ Brazen self - interest’ –
Saro - Wiwa , president and founder of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, and eight fellow activists were executed on November 10 , 1995 , after a military tribunal convicted them of the murder of four traditional Ogoni chiefs .
The men denied the charges and human rights groups slammed the trial as a sham .
The widows’ case is being backed by rights group Amnesty International .
“ 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, ” Amnesty ’ s Mark Dummett said .
Shell denied all involvement in the men ’ s executions , saying it was “ inconceivable ” that it would have interfered in a criminal trial in a foreign country .
“ We are not blind to the terrible and radical loss that the women have suffered , ” a lawyer for the firm said . “ But Shell is not responsible for these events. ”
The lawyer added that the Dutch court did not have jurisdiction over the matter .
Shell said in a separate statement that it had asked the Nigerian presidency for leniency for the men and “ we regret that no response was given ”.
“ The executions carried out by a military government at that time have deeply affected us , ” a spokesman for the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited said .
The Ogoni movement was set up in 1990 to fight against pollution and the destruction of the ecosystem of the 500 , 000 - strong Ogoni community , which lives on an oil- rich parcel of land on the northern edge of the Niger Delta .
The executions provoked a global outcry and led to the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth. The West African country was readmitted with the return of civilian rule in 1999 .
In 2009 Shell agreed to a $ 15 . 5 million payout in the United Sta