Royal Dutch Shell Group .com

The Independent: Shell faces human rights grilling

By Tim Webb

11 April 2004

Shell will come under more pressure this week when hearings begin into allegations that the oil company conspired to commit human rights abuses in Nigeria.

Former chairman Sir Philip Watts and his predecessor, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, will give evidence on Friday in London to US lawyers handling the case.

The class action suit, which was filed in September 2002, relates to alleged human rights abuses of the tribal people of Ogoniland. It alleges that Shell participated with the Nigerian military in "unprovoked attacks" which resulted in "extrajudicial murder, crimes against humanity, torture, rape, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

It claims Shell bought ammunition and used its helicopters and boats for "Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland" carried out by the Nigerian military.

Shell strongly denies the claims. A spokesman said: "The allegations made in the complaint are completely false and without merit. We would expect the court to find this to be the case if it comes to trial."

The Nigerian government ordered a bloody campaign against the tribespeople in the 1990s, which culminated in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists, in 1995.

Sir Philip ran Shell's Nigerian subsidiary between 1991 and 1994. Shell abandoned operations in Ogoniland in 1994 after widespread protests.

Shell is already being investigated by regulators in the US and UK over the misreporting of its oil and gas reserves. Sir Philip stood down in February after announcing that the company was reclassifying a fifth of its "proven" reserves as "probable".

The company replaced Frank Coopman, the finance officer at its exploration and production division, with its head of investor relations last week.

Click here to return to Royal Dutch Shell Group .com