Ogoni: Shell Settles Ogoni Saro-Wiwa Case
Below is an article published by BBC News :
Royal Dutch Shell has agreed a $15.5m (£9.7m) out-of-court settlement in a case accusing it of complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria.
It was brought by relatives of nine anti-oil campaigners, including author Ken Saro-Wiwa, who were hanged in 1995 by Nigeria's then military rulers. The oil giant strongly denies any wrongdoing and says the payment is part of a "process of reconciliation".
The case, initiated 13 years ago , had been due for trial in the US next week.
It 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 case alleged that Shell was complicit in murder, torture and other abuses by Nigeria's former military government against campaigners in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others were members of the Ogoni ethnic group from the Niger Delta. They had been campaigning for the rights of the local people and protesting at pollution caused by the oil industry. They were executed after being convicted by a military tribunal over the 1994 murder of four local leaders. The activists' deaths sparked a storm of international protest.
Ken Wiwa, 40, son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, said his father would have been happy with the result.
He told the Associated Press that Shell's settlement represented a "victory for us".
Paul Hoffman, a lawyer for the Nigerian families, also expressed his satisfaction.
"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," he said.
"Had we tried the case and won, the plaintiffs were still looking at years of appeals," he said.
Mr Hoffman said $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 has not accepted any liability over the allegations against it.
Speaking after the settlement was announced, 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 that 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.
It was also 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 Mr 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."