THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS, OCTOBER 10, 2012 — For the first time in history, a European company, Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell, will appear in a Dutch court to account for damage it caused abroad, Friends of the Earth International announced today.

The court case against Shell’s oil spills in Nigeria has been filed by four Nigerian plaintiffs in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

Lawyers for both parties will plea at a key hearing in The Hague on 11 October at 9:30am. [1] The verdict is expected early in 2013.

“This court case will have groundbreaking legal repercussions for multinational corporations globally, and especially for European corporations,“ says Geert Ritsema, globalisation campaign leader at Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie.

“Due to the poor maintenance of pipelines and factories, Shell let tens of millions of barrels of oil leak in the Niger Delta, with disastrous consequences for local people and the environment. The Anglo Dutch oil giant must now stop its pollution, compensate the damage and prevent more oil spills from happening,” he adds.

Geert Ritsema and Hans Berkhuizen, the director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, will conduct a fact-finding mission in Nigeria from September 27 – October 2.

“Nigerians have to sue Shell in The Netherlands to obtain justice. Meanwhile Shell uses the threat of legal action to attempt to silence legitimate protests, for instance the recent Greenpeace protests against Shell in Europe. They pollute with impunity, destroy livelihoods and block dissent. This is deplorable,” says Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

“We want to see an end to the corporate crimes committed by oil giants like Shell in Nigeria and around the world,” he adds.

In May 2008, four Nigerian fishermen and farmers [2] from the villages of Goi, Ikot Ada Udo and Oruma, in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria / ERA, started a legal case against Shell Nigeria and its parent company in the Netherlands. [3]

The Hague court hearing will take place just 10 days after a key [October 1st] hearing of the U.S. Supreme court regarding a separate lawsuit ‘Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum’ brought by Nigerian refugees in the U.S. accusing Shell of helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s. [4]

The serious contamination of the oil rich Niger Delta has had disastrous consequences for the local people and their environment. Oil leaks regularly pollute the fields, forests and water. These leaks are a heavy burden on agriculture and fishing.

“Since the spill I have lost most of my income. Now we live from hand to mouth: sometimes I go into the bush, sometimes a company gives me a day’s work for 500 Naira [3 euro], ” says one of the four plaintiffs, Alali Efanga from Oruma (Bayelsa State) in Nigeria.

Shell is the operator of Nigeria’s largest oil fields and bears significant responsibility for the oil pollution. The UN, among others, has stated that Shell does not comply with legal environmental standards and has failed to clean up leaked oil – or has done so only insufficiently, for decades. Moreover, Shell’s own sustainability report stated that the number of leaks due to poor maintenance doubled in 2011, rising from 32 to 64.

In May 2012 Friends of the Earth International delivered some 70,000 signatures to Shell CEO Peter Voser from people who want Shell to start cleaning up its mess in the oil-rich and highly polluted Niger Delta in Nigeria. The signatures were collected by the organisation SumOfUs in close cooperation with Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International.


[1] PHOTOS OF THE OIL SPILLS, as well as legal documents and fact sheets about the legal proceedings are available at :

http://www.milieudefensie.nl/english/shell/oil-leaks/courtcase/press and


[2] BIOS, PORTRAITS AND STORIES OF THE PLAINTIFFS are available at : http://www.milieudefensie.nl/english/shell/oil-leaks/courtcase/plaintiffs


[3] A TIMELINE OF THE COURT CASE is available at : http://www.milieudefensie.nl/publicaties/factsheets/timeline-courtcase-shell

[4] For more information read “Kiobel v. Shell – Justice in U.S. courts for atrocities overseas: preserving the Alien Tort Statute”.


Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie press office: Tel: + 31 – 20 – 5507 333 or e-mail persvoorlichting [at] milieudefensie.nl

Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth Nigeria and chair of Friends of the Earth International: +234 803 727 4395 (Nigerian cell) or email: Nnimmo [at] eraction.org