Supported by Milieudefensie – a branch in the Netherlands of the international organization Friends of the Earth – these four Nigerian farmers and fishermen took legal action in 2008, demanding that the Anglo-Dutch company pay for the clean-up work and pay it. compensation.
The plaintiffs, two of whom have died since the start of the 13-year-old court battle, also demand that Shell clean up the damage in their villages, Goi, Ikot Ada Udo and Oruma, in southeast Nigeria.
In 2015, the Court of Appeal declared the Dutch justice competent to rule in the case, annulling a decision rendered in 2013 at first instance, according to which the parent company of Shell – whose head office is in The Hague -, could not be held responsible for any negligence of its subsidiary in Nigeria. Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary had been held partially responsible and ordered to pay compensation to one of the four plaintiffs. Both parties had appealed.
In the event of a decision favorable to the plaintiffs on Friday, this case could set a precedent in environmental liability. “A victory would herald the start of a new era in which large multinationals such as Shell will no longer be able to go about their business without law but will be responsible for all of their operations, including abroad,” explains Donald Pols .
Shell, for its part, has always attributed the pollution to sabotage and claims to have cleaned up the premises. The oil giant has also rejected the jurisdiction of the Dutch justice, believing that a possible trial should be organized in Nigeria, where the facts took place.
In a separate case also against Shell in the Netherlands, four Nigerian widows accuse the company of having contributed to the arrest of their husbands, executed by the military regime in the 1990s, as they attempted to peacefully disrupt oil development in Ogoni country (southern Nigeria).