Sep 08, 2010

Court to handle Milieudefensie request to inspect Shell documents

by PhilLee — last modified Sep 08, 2010 03:00 PM

The lawyer for Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands - also representing three Nigerian farmers – has submitted to The Hague court an additional written request to obtain access to thirty of Shell’s internal documents.

nigerian gas flaring 2This is necessary because Shell has so far refused to allow inspection of the documents. The request is part of a court case* involving four Nigerian farmers and fishers and Milieudefensie versus the oil company, due to severe oil pollution in the Niger Delta in Nigeria.


Milieudefensie and the farmers requested the documents, which could provide additional evidence in the case, from Shell earlier this year via the court. The company denied access. Therefore the lawyer for Milieudefensie and the Nigerians have submitted an additional request (called a statement of reply), which requests that the court compel Shell to allow inspection. Shell then can submit a defence in writing.

"This refusal to allow access is typical of Shell," said Geert Ritsema of Milieudefensie. "The company excels at erecting smoke screens and obstructions to prevent being held responsible for the damage and oil pollution it has caused in the Niger Delta. We are optimistic that the court will recognise that the documents we have requested are of importance in helping the Nigerian farmers and fishers defend their rights."

Earlier in 2010, Shell presented purely legal and formal reasons to deny access to the documents. Especially noteworthy is that the oil multinational additionally claimed that the requested documents – a daily logbook detailing the effects of oil leaks, as required by Nigerian law – simply do not exist.


Milieudefensie and the Nigerians hope to be able to use the documents they have requested to uncover new evidence for the key claim in the case: that Shell’s Dutch headquarters shares responsibility for the actions of its subsidiary in Nigeria, and so also for the leaks which the case centres on. Access is also requested to documents concerning specific leaks in the villages of Oruma and Goi.


The legal case of Milieudefensie and four Nigerian farmers and fishers versus Shell consists of three cases of oil leaks in the Nigerian villages of Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo. The court cases have been brought before the court in The Hague, where Shell’s international headquarters is located. The Nigerian plaintiffs, who lost their livelihoods after oil from leaking Shell pipelines streamed over their fields and into their fish ponds, are demanding that Shell properly clean up the oil and compensate them for the damage they have suffered.

Find out more about the case, including background, a timeline and legal documents