A Dutch court on Wednesday rejected a case brought by four Nigerian widows against oil giant Shell over their husbands’ execution by the military regime that ruled their country in the 1990s.
They accused Shell of involvement in the arrest, detention, prosecution and eventual execution of their husbands, who opposed the group’s exploitation of oil resources in Ogoni, southern Nigeria.
The widows’ complaint alleged that Shell had been involved in corrupting witnesses in the trial of the so-called Ogoni 9, who in November 1995 were convicted by a military tribunal for involvement in the murder of four Ogoni leaders.
But the Dutch court ruled that their position was based on interpretation and supposition and that they had no evidence to back their accusations.
Witnesses had testified to the court that they had signed preprepared statements and had been coached to incriminate the defendants, in return for the promise of payments and jobs. They said they had been told that the money they received came from Shell.
But “the statements are largely based on assumptions and interpretations of the witnesses and are not specific enough to be able to conclude that the money they have stated actually came from (Shell)”, said a court statement.
Whatever abuses had taken place during the trial, there was no evidence that Shell had any knowledge of or role in what had happened, the court concluded.
Esther Kiobel, the widow of the Barinem Kiobel, brought the action with the support of Amnesty International. Her husband was executed on November 10, 1995 along with eight other activists.
Among them was the Nigerian writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa, who led the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).
All the defendants insisted they were innocent of the charges against them and rights organisations including Amnesty have argued that their trial was a sham.