Widows of executed Nigerian activists drop case against Shell

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The widows of four Nigerian activists executed in 1995 have withdrawn their appeal in a Dutch civil case claiming oil giant Shell was complicit in the men’s deaths, ending a years-long legal battle for compensation and an apology.

Four widows, Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula, initiated the case in 2017. The District Court in The Hague rejected it in a final ruling in March, following a 2019 interim ruling that dismissed parts of their claim.

Their husbands were among nine activists from the Ogoni tribe, led by writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, who were hanged in 1995 for killing four political rivals. Supporters say they were indeed targeted because of their participation in protests against environmental damage by Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary.

Attorney Channa Samkalden confirmed the end of the case in an emailed statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday. The decision to withdraw the appeal was first reported by Reuters.

“This has been a long and demanding procedure, which makes them relive horrible events, and the outcome is most uncertain,” Samkalden said, adding that the women never received any compensation or other support.

“While two have found refuge in the US and Canada, two are still in Nigeria in very poor conditions. Instead of focusing on the appeal, initiatives are now being developed that aim to provide these women with basic financial assistance,” the statement added.

Shell has always denied allegations of complicity in the executions of activists.

The company said the conclusion of the civil action “in no way diminishes the tragic nature of the events of 1995. These events deeply shocked us. The Shell Group, together with other organizations and individuals, appealed for clemency to the military government in power in Nigeria at the time, but to our deep regret, those appeals went unheeded.”

Shell discovered and began exploiting Nigeria’s vast oil reserves in the late 1950s and faced fierce criticism from activists and local communities over spills and the company’s close ties to government security forces.

The Holland case is not the first time that relatives of Ogoni activists have taken Shell to court.

In 2009, Royal Dutch Shell agreed to a $15.5 million settlement to end a lawsuit in US District Court in New York alleging the oil giant was complicit in nine executions. Shell said it agreed to settle the lawsuit in the hope it would help the “reconciliation process.” But the company has not admitted to wrongdoing.

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