The widow of a Nigerian activist Esther Kiobel is planning to sue Royal Dutch Shell in the Dutch courts alleging the oil company was complicit in the execution of her husband by the Nigerian military in 1995, court documents filed in the United States last week show.
Esther Kiobel's husband, Barinem Kiobel (pictured right) was a prominent member of government who opposed the devastation wrought by Shell Oil and opposed the violence being committed against the opposition.
In 1994, he was arrested along with Ken Saro-Wiwa and seven other leaders of Movement for the Survival of the Ogono People, MOSOP. They were tortured for a year and then executed. Their bodies were dumped in unmarked graves in a Port Harcourt cemetery. Esther fled Nigeria, applied successfully for asylum status in the United States.
Esther Kiobel has filed an application in New York to secure documents from Shell’s U.S. lawyers, which she could use in the Dutch action The filings with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of New York said she planned to begin that action before the end of the year.
"Ms. Kiobel will demonstrate that Shell encouraged, facilitated, and conspired with the Nigerian government to commit human rights violations against the Ogoni people,” a memorandum in the application filed last week said.
A Shell spokesman said on Sunday: “Shell remains firmly committed to supporting fundamental human rights in line with the legitimate role of business. We have always denied, in the strongest possible terms, the allegations made by the plaintiffs in this tragic case."
In 2009 prior to that ruling Shell had agreed in the United States to pay US$15.5 million to settle lawsuits related to other activists executed at the same time as Barinem Kiobel, including author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Kiobel’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
John Donovan, who runs the royaldutchshellplc.com protest website, and who has advised Kiobel on the case said: "She’s going after Shell in their home country, the Netherlands".
The Nigerian military cracked down heavily on local opposition to oil production by a Shell joint venture in the Niger Delta in the early 1990s. Kiobel alleges that Shell provided support to the military in its crackdown.
A Dutch court ruled in December that Shell may be sued in the Netherlands for oil spills at its subsidiary in Nigeria, although it did not say Shell was responsible.