Dutch court takes up case against Shell
A Dutch appeals court ruled yesterday that four Nigerian farmers may take their case against oil giant Shell to a judge in the Netherlands, in a landmark ruling involving multinational corporate governance.
"The Dutch courts and this court consider it has jurisdiction in the case against Shell and its subsidiary in Nigeria," Judge Hans van der Klooster said at the appeals court in The Hague.
The four farmers and fishermen, backed by the Dutch branch of environmental group Friends of the Earth, first filed the case in 2008 against the Anglo-Dutch company in a court case thousands of kilometres (miles) from their homes.
They want Shell to clean up devastating oil spills in four heavily-polluted villages in the west African country's oil-rich Niger Delta, prevent further spills and pay compensation.
The three-judge panel also denied Shell the power to take its decision before the Netherland's top court. Shell did not specifically say whether it would seek a review of yesterday's judgement, but it said that the case over their responsibility for the spills "will be the topic of continuing litigation."
The farmers also wanted Shell to disclose a number of documents they believe could show the company's negligence in maintaining its oil pipelines and guarding against sabotage.
In return, court documents reveal, Shell wanted the judges to scrap Dutch jurisdiction over cases in Nigeria and rule the farmers' appeal inadmissible.
Nigeria is the world's 13th largest oil producer, pumping out more than 2.4 million barrels a day, but much of the Niger Delta region remains deeply impoverished.