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USA: Supreme Court examines Nigeria torture case involving oil giant Shell

last updated Oct 02, 2012

The new session of the US Supreme Court has begun with the re-examination of a closely watched case (Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum) on the alleged involvement of oil giant Shell in acts of torture by the Nigerian government between 1992 and 1995. The main question under examination is whether American judges are entitled to hear lawsuits over human rights atrocities abroad.

US Supreme Court
US Supreme Court; Source: Flickr (dbking)

Twelve Nigerian plaintiffs now living under asylum in the United States claim that the oil company has helped the Nigerian government under military ruler Sani Abacha, arrest and torture political activists. They also want to hold the corporation responsible for its alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings and crimes against humanity.


The US Supreme Court is expected to review the Alien Tort Statue (ATS) which permits non-citizens to file suits in US courts for violations of international law. The judges will decide whether multinational corporations can be held liable under the ATS.


The case may have implications for other pending cases such as Exxon Mobile’s alleged complicity in the murder and torture of Indonesian people. The Obama administration has advised the Supreme Court not to adopt a categorical rule allowing lawsuits over extraterritorial conduct.


Times: US Supreme Court considers Nigeria torture case


Reuters: Human rights in focus at U.S. Supreme Court


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