Appeals judges: Dutch court has jurisdiction in pollution case between …

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Appeals judges: Dutch court has jurisdiction in pollution case between Nigerian farmers, Shell.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Nigerian farmers will have the chance to sue oil multinational Shell in a Dutch court for pollution they blame on leaking pipelines, a Dutch appeals court ruled Friday.The oil giant Shell could be exposed to a raft of compensation claims and be forced to disclose previously withheld internal documents over its failure to stop and clean up decades of oil pollution in a test case before the Dutch Court of Appeal on Friday. Activists said the ruling sets a landmark legal precedent that clears the way for Dutch-based companies to be sued for alleged negligence of their subsidiaries elsewhere in the world. “There is now jurisprudence that means victims of human rights violations or pollution can sue Dutch multinationals in the Netherlands,” said Geert Ritsema of the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, the environmental group that is also involved in the case.

The case is the latest attempt by Niger Delta communities to hold Shell to account, with the support of international NGOs including Amnesty International. The case centers on a charge from four farmers that Shell and its Nigerian unit are liable for damages caused by leaks from two underground oil pipes from 2004-2007. Friday’s decision means the case that centered on pollution in the land and in the water around Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta can proceed, likely next year. It is vital that multinationals are made to answer for action abroad that would never be accepted in their home countries,” said Amnesty International researcher Mark Dummett. “There have been thousands of spills from Shell’s pipelines since the company started pumping oil in the Niger Delta in 1958, with devastating consequences for the people living there. However, in one case, the judges ordered a subsidiary, Shell Nigeria, to compensate a farmer for breach of duty of care by making it too easy for saboteurs to open an oil well head that leaked on to his land.

In another victory for the plaintiffs, the Hague court also ordered Shell to give the farmers and environmental activists supporting their case access to internal documents that the court said could shed more light on the case. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that $1 billion is needed for the first five years of oil clean-up for Ogoniland, just one Nigerian region where Shell operates.

Shell, which discovered and started tapping the country’s oil reserves in the late 1950s, has been heavily criticized by activists and local communities over oil spills and close ties to government security forces.

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