LONDON Jan 11 The widow of an activist executed
after protesting against Royal Dutch Shell's oil
production in Nigeria has won access to legal documents for use
in a legal case for damages against the oil giant that she says
she plans to launch in the Netherlands.
A U.S. judge in December told Shell's U.S. lawyers to give
Esther Kiobel documents about Shell's activities in Nigeria,
according to her lawyers and a court transcript obtained by
protest website royaldutchshellplc.com and seen by Reuters.
Kiobel alleges that Shell was complicit in the execution of
her late husband, alongside author and environmental activist
Ken Saro-Wiwa, by the Nigerian military in 1995 because it
provided support and funding for the army in its crackdown of
opposition to a Shell-led joint venture in the Niger Delta.
Shell said in a statement that it denied the allegations,
previously made in a lawsuit against Shell in the United States.
"We have always denied, in the strongest possible terms, the
allegations made by the plaintiffs in this tragic case," a
spokesman said in the statement.
It made no comment about the possibility of legal action in
the Netherlands or the December court ruling on the documents.
Kiobel previously gained access to the documents and
deposition transcripts she is now seeking but only for use in
the U.S. lawsuit.
Kiobel's lawyers said a court order prevented her from using
the files in other legal actions or publicly discussing the
Nonetheless, in an October filing Kiobel's lawyers said they
sought the documents as part of their aim of proving cooperation
between "the Nigerian junta and Shell in committing human rights
The previous U.S. case was unsuccessful because the Supreme
Court ruled in 2013 that claims could only be taken in the
United States if an alleged transgression was guided from inside
Kiobel's Dutch lawyer, Channa Samkalden, said the Dutch
civil case would be filed in the next couple of months. Any
damages are likely to be immaterial for Shell, analysts said, as
Dutch courts rarely make the kinds of multi-million dollar
awards common in the United States.
Marco Simons, a lawyer with environmental group Earth Rights
in Washington who has seen the documents because he represented
Kiobel in the U.S. lawsuit, said the material to be turned over
would support the lawsuit against Shell in the Netherlands,
where the courts have already agreed to hear other cases
involving Shell's overseas activities.
"It would be extremely critical to have access to all of
this evidence," he said.
Reuters has not seen the documents and cannot independently
verify what Simons says about the relevance of their content.
Shell's law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, which asked
the court to reject Kiobel's request, did not respond to
requests for comment.
(Editing by Alison Williams and Alexander Smith)