The Kiobel v Shell case resumed at The Hague on October 8, 2019 and for the first time heard accounts from individuals who accuse Shell of offering them bribes to give fake testimonies that led to the ‘Ogoni Nine’ being sentenced to death and executed in Nigeria.
Three men claimed that Nigerian government officials and Shell staff offered them money and promises of jobs and houses to testify against the Ogoni Nine. They said that, together with other prosecution witnesses, they were asked to sign statements that had been prepared for them and instructed to make specific statements during the Ogoni Nine court hearing aimed at incriminating the men. Renowned activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, Barinem Kiobel and the others had been accused of involvement in the murder of four traditional rulers, who were opposed to Saro-Wiwa’s campaign against the oil industry.
Esther Kiobel and three other women – Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula – accuse Shell of being complicit in the unlawful arrest, detention and execution of their husbands. The men were hanged in 1995 along with Ken Saro-Wiwa and four other men after they were convicted in a blatantly unfair trial. For more than twenty years Shell has escaped scrutiny over its role in these tragic events.
At the case’s first hearing in February 2019, Esther and Victoria were both allowed to speak to the court and gave moving testimonies regarding their late husbands and subsequent struggles for justice. It was the first time either had had such an opportunity. Esther described it as very emotional and powerful for her.
We applaud the courage and persistence of Esther, Victoria, Blessing and Charity. Amnesty has shared over 30,000 solidarity messages with Esther, and is supporting her case.
After the October hearing, Esther wrote a message about her case and to express gratitude for the support she has received: (full message here)
It has been a very hard road and long, long journey in the fight for fundamental rights of my late husband, Honorable Dr. Barinem Nubari Kiobel, and other distinguished Ogonis who have suffered the most horrific abuses or murdered by the former Nigerian junta to help their exclusive collaborators. Shell Oil Corporation continue the exploitation of Nigerian crude oil resources under the most reckless human rights abuses ever imagined…
… it has been a worthwhile fight for freedom against oppressive regimes and lawless Corporations around the world. I will not stop fighting for freedom, justice, and human rights because that is what Amnesty International, Mr. John Donovan, and other human rights advocates stand for and that’s what I believe in. I am happy to see many youths at the forefront of human rights today. May God Bless them and keep them safe as they fight for the rights of others.
I am using this opportunity to thank some organizations and individuals that have been helpful and supportive in this long fight and tirelessly still fighting for the oppressed. I want to specially thank Amnesty International, Mr. John Donovan and family, Barrister Carey Davino and co-lawyers, and Barrister Channa and co-lawyers; they have been a tremendous help, consistent supporters, and tireless advocates. For many years, they have stood strongly by me. I could not and would not have gone this far without you all.
Thanks also go to:
ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, CENTER FOR JUSTICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, and EARTH RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL.
I appreciate your efforts, commitments, and dedication. God bless you all.
Mrs. Esther Kiobel
Timeline of the case:
2002: Esther Kiobel first sued Shell in the USA, where she had been granted asylum.
2013: US Supreme Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over the case, meaning US courts never got to examine the facts of the case.
2017: Esther Kiobel filed a new civil case against Shell in The Netherlands, Shell’s home state, together with Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula.
February 2019: The District Court of The Hague heard the first arguments in Esther’s case against Shell. This was also the first time Esther Kiobel and Victoria Bera were allowed to speak to the court. Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula, who still live in Nigeria, were refused visas to travel to Europe.
May 2019: Court ruled that the case was not time-barred and that the court did have jurisdiction over the case. It ordered that the plaintiffs’ lawyers hear witnesses and provide further evidence as to whether Shell bribed people to testify against the Ogoni Nine. The court also ruled that Shell hand over some internal documents concerning communication within Shell about the trial of the Ogoni Nine. However, it did not order the release of other confidential internal documents requested by the plaintiffs’ legal team.
October 2019: For the first time the Court heard witnesses.