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Nigerian Farmers Sue Shell Oil in Dutch Court



In a case that could set a legal precedent for holding multinational corporations responsible for their overseas operations, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, her Nigerian sister organisation ERA and four Nigerian farmers and fishermen asked the civil court in the Hague to hold Shell Oil financially responsible for a major oil spill in the Niger Delta which damaged fish ponds, orchards, forests and farmland in three villages in the Niger Delta in 2005.  The plaintiffs argue that the spill was caused by the oil company's corroded underground pipelines, and that Shell has a responsibility to adhere to international environmental standards rather than national or local standards, to prevent oil spills from occuring in the countries where Shell operates.


Shell Oil contends that its pipeline was sabatoged by local inhabitants stealing oil, that it voluntarily cleaned up the spill through a local subsidiary, and that claims against Shell subsidiaries should be brought to local courts.


The suit was launched in 2008, and an earlier decision by a Dutch Court supported Shell's argument that sabotage was the likely cause of the leak.  In today's hearing, the plaintiffs have asked the court to consider evidence proving that the pressurized underground pipeline was seriously corroded, causing it to leak.


A decision is expected to be handed down by the court in late 2012 or early 2013.


This video Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth  shows the damage caused by the leak, the insufficient clean up operation run by Shell's subsidiary, and the local farmers' assertions that Shell Oil is responsible for it: