Shell’s impunity challenged by Nigerian farmers

• January 31, 2013
An oil spill in Nigeria

Creative Commons: Jenn Farr, 2007

In a groundbreaking ruling, a court in The Hague has ruled against Royal Dutch Shell and in partial favor of Nigerian farmers claiming that Shell is responsible for a devastating oil spill on their land.  This is an unprecedented case for the advancement of social justice in which a global firm was sued at its headquarters for damages done in a developing nation.  Eroding the legal impunity of large fossil fuel corporations is a step in the right direction for holding them accountable for environmental and climate impacts.

Even though the court only found Shell responsible for one of the five total allegations, the unusual circumstances of the case have opened an important opportunity for international justice.  Damaged parties in developing nations now have a successful legal precedent when pursuing accountability from corporations that have polluted and disrupted their land.  Campaigners have accused oil corporations of a long history of evading responsibility for spills in developing nations – a move that would likely be swiftly criminalized in a developed nation.

A reporter for Al Jazeera, reporting from the Hague at the time of the decision, said, “There will be a bit of a shiver going through the corporate world because all along the environmental companies have been arguing that companies like Shell do not necessarily act with the same level of responsibility in places like Nigeria which are a long way from home.”

Read more: Al Jazeera>>

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About the Author

Emily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.

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