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.
The case is the latest attempt by Niger Delta communities to hold Shell to account, with the support of international NGOs including Amnesty International.
On Friday, the Dutch Court of Appeal is expected to rule on whether Shell Nigeria can be held liable in the Netherlands for its negligence in Nigeria and also decide on whether to allow the plaintiffs access to documents withheld by Shell. The case has been brought by Friends of the Earth on behalf of four farmers in the Niger Delta.
“This case is especially important as it could pave the way for further cases from other communities devastated by Shell’s negligence. 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. They have heard endless false promises from Shell. Our research shows that even when Shell says it has cleaned up land, there are visible signs of the oil pollution that scars the land and destroys the economic prospects of a community that depends on farming and fishing.”
In January 2015, Shell settled a separate case in the UK, when it paid £55 million in compensation to the Niger Delta community of Bodo. 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.