A UK Court of Appeals has ruled that two Niger Delta communities cannot have their case against oil giant Shell heard in the UK because the parent company cannot be held liable for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said.
Reacting to the judgement, Joe Westby, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Business and Human Rights, said: “This ruling sets a dangerous precedent and will make it more difficult to hold UK companies to account.”
He said with this ruling the court has struck a blow not only to the Ogale and Bille communities, who live everyday with the devastating consequences of Shell oil spills, but with victims of corporate human rights abuses all over the world.
Westby said: “The idea that powerful multinationals are not responsible for the conduct of their subsidiaries overseas has allowed Shell to evade accountability for a raft of shocking human rights abuses spanning decades. This is a textbook example of the almost insurmountable obstacles to justice faced by people who take on powerful multinationals.
“Internal Shell documents show that the company’s headquarters have known full well for decades about the massive oil pollution caused by their operations in Nigeria, and have chosen not to stop it. If Shell cannot be held to account for such well-documented abuses, what hope is there of bringing other companies to justice?
“The communities will now be taking their fight for justice to the Supreme Court – this could be their last chance to see their environment restored.”
The Ogale and Bille communities brought two separate legal claims against both Royal Dutch Shell plc (RDS) and its 100% owned Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in 2016.
The court decision rejected the communities’ appeal against a January 2017 ruling that RDS could not be held liable for the actions of SPDC. In a split decision, a panel of three judges ruled that the claim could not proceed.