Supreme court to hear Nigeria-Shell case


Amnesty International activists participate in a demonstration in which the perform a symbolic cleaning of the surroundings of the headquarters of oil company Shell in The Hague.


Robin Utrecht

The U.S. Supreme court said that it will consider a lawsuit that accuses Royal Dutch Shell of abuses against human rights. The case could make U.S. firms liable for torture or genocide committed overseas.

The plaintiff in the case, relatives of seven Nigerians who were killed by the country's military regime are suing Royal Dutch Shell for enlisting the government to suppress resistance to oil exploration in the Niger Delta in the 1990s, reports the Wall Street Journal.   

They are charging Shell with "complicity in human rights violations committed against them in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta in Nigeria between 1992 and 1995," says their complaint, reports AFP.

According to the HuffingtonPost, the justices will review a federal appeals court ruling in favor of Shell.

The case will assess the liability of corporations, instead of people, under the Alien Tort Statute, a law that dates back to 1789, which according to scholars was meant to assure foreign governments that the U.S. would help prevent breaching international law.

The 222-year old law has been used increasingly in recent years to sue corporations for abuses in foreign countries.

Other cases that are pending in U.S. courts currently include the case against Chiquita Brands International for their relationship with paramilitary groups in Colombia, abuses in Indonesia and Nigeria by Exxon and Chevron, respectively.