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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Torture Case Against|Shell Returns to NYC

MANHATTAN (CN) — Dusting off Supreme Court defeat following one of biggest human-rights battles in decades, a Nigerian woman accusing Royal Dutch Shell of conspiring to torture environmental activists in her homeland returned to New York to prepare for new litigation in the Netherlands.

Esther Kiobel filed her latest lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday, seeking information to take on the oil giant near its international headquarters.

In a petition, Kiobel's lawyers revealed that their client is preparing to sue Royal Dutch Shell and its predecessors Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria for their alleged involvement in the 1995 execution of her husband, Barinem Kiobel.

Royal Dutch Shell is based in the Dutch city of The Hague, the home of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, and a city synonymous with the global human-rights movement.

Kiobel's lawsuit will accuse Shell of complicity in "gross violations of civil liberties and human rights directed at Dr. Kiobel and Esther Kiobel, including arbitrary detention and arrest; attempted rape; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and violations of the right to a fair trial and the right to life."

After surviving rape, imprisonment and other brutality at the hands of Nigerian military and police in the 1990s, residents of the country's Ogoniland won political asylum in the United States.

Kiobel claims that she and her husband faced persecution for opposing oil exploration of their land being carried out by Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria, a joint subsidiary of Royal Dutch Petroleum, based in the Netherlands, and Shell Transport and Trading, based in England.

The Ogoni residents first pressed their claims under the Alien Tort Statute in the Southern District of New York, in a legal battle the spanned more than a decade before the Supreme Court ruled that a U.S. court was not the proper venue for Kiobel's action.

In her latest case, Kiobel demands documents from the New York-based law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore for her upcoming Dutch lawsuit.

"Information that is in the hands of parties located in the United States is directly relevant to the Dutch Kiobel case and will be important for determining, quantifying and apportioning liability," according to a 19-page memo supporting the petition.

Kiobel's lead attorney Benjamin Hoffman, from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.

The Cravath firm did not reply to an email sent to the general mailbox of its New York headquarters.

Royal Dutch Shell's media relations hotline for the United States, based in Texas, did not respond to a voicemail by press time.

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