Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell

Noo Saro-Wiwa is the daughter of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian dictatorship in 1995. In our interview, we spoke mostly about her new book, “Looking for Transwonderland.” But afterwards, I asked her about the Saro-Wiwa family lawsuits that they brought against Royal Dutch Shell in 1996.

The family was able to sue Royal Dutch Shell in US federal court through the Alien Tort Statute. It’s a US law from 1789 which allows for non-US citizens to file suit in US courts when the cases involve international human rights violations. They also sued the company under the Torture Victim Prevention Act. It allows individuals to seek damages in the US for torture or extrajudicial killing, regardless of where the acts took place. The Saro-Wiwa family was aiming to hold Royal Dutch Shell complicit in human rights abuses against the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta. I asked Noo Saro-Wiwa what the basis was for the lawsuit.

The case did drag on for 12 years. But finally in 2009, Shell settled out-of-court with the Saro-Wiwa family for $15.5 million. But the company still denied any culpability in his and his nine fellow activists’ deaths.


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