Opinion

The Great Debate

from The Great Debate UK:

Wiwa v Shell: The day of reckoning

Ben Amunwa-Ben Amunwa is a campaigner with oil industry watchdog Platform, where he runs Remember Saro-Wiwa, a project that uses art and activism to raise awareness about the impact of the oil in the Niger Delta. The opinions expressed are his own.-

When the news broke of a settlement in the Wiwa v Shell case, a cacophony of responses soon flooded my inbox. Hailed as a victory for human rights by some, others felt disappointed that Shell could throw money in the face of justice. In such a high profile and emotive legal battle, holding oil giant Shell responsible for human rights abuses in Nigeria, including the execution of charismatic activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, hopes were inevitably high.

A settlement was always going to stir some controversy. Activists wanted to see Shell on trial for aiding and abetting the Nigerian military in crackdowns on the Ogoni people in the 1990s. Myself and many others travelled to New York expecting a trial, but came home empty-handed. Yet none of us had spent hours locked in settlement negotiations, nor lived with the burden of a 12-year litigation, not to mention the personal trauma of losing our loved ones to brutal violence. There is a growing consensus that the settlement is a victory in favor of the plaintiffs, and a step forward on the long road to corporate accountability.

Eager to flex its public-relations muscles, Shell claimed they agreed to a settlement for "compassionate" reasons. A statement on Tuesday said:

“Shell today agreed to settle a court case in New York related to allegations in connection with the Nigerian military government's execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995, making a humanitarian gesture to set up a trust fund to benefit the Ogoni people…Shell has always maintained the allegations were false… we were prepared to go to court to clear our name.”

from The Great Debate UK:

Samantha Orobator: On trial in Laos

clivestaffordsmith-- Clive Stafford Smith is the director of Reprieve, the UK legal action charity that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Samantha Orobator, a 20 year old British woman, is languishing in the Phonthong Prison in Laos, on a capital charge of carrying a pound and a half of drugs in her luggage. Under the languid Laotian legal system, she would normally have waited two years or more for a trial. However, the Laotians accelerated the schedule, announcing late on Thursday that the trial would be held this Monday. They omitted a few of the niceties: She faced the firing squad without a lawyer.

Anna Morris, our Reprieve barrister from London, was scheduled to meet with her on Tuesday, which may have contributed to the chosen trial date. Criticizing the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is a criminal offense. Perhaps calling for a fair trial is considered too close to the line; the government reneged on its promise, made before Anna flew 9,344 kilometres (5,806 miles) from London to Laos, to allow three days of legal visits.

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