Shell Oil: Complicit in Murder?


By Ian Heide, Business and Human Rights Coordinator

Amnesty International is calling on the Governments of Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to launch investigations into the role of Shell Oil regarding the horrific crimes committed in Ogoniland by the Nigerian military during the 1990s. In 1995, nine men from Ogoniland were executed. The executions of the Ogoni Nine, after an unfair trial, were the culmination of a much broader crackdown on the Ogoni people by the Nigerian military government. Amnesty`s latest report focuses on widespread human rights violations including unlawful killings, torture, rape and the destruction of homes and property, carried out by the military in the years leading up to the executions in 1995.

Amnesty International has reviewed thousands of pages of internal company documents and witness statements in order to reach this conclusion. The evidence shows that Shell repeatedly encouraged the Nigerian military to deal with community protests, even when they knew it would lead to massive human rights violations.

The ultimate responsibility for the human rights violations documented in the new Amnesty report, and the executions of the Ogoni Nine, lies with the Nigerian government. However, Amnesty`s research shows that Shell knew that the security forces regularly committed grave human rights violations in Ogoniland, knew that asking for or encouraging the security forces to enter Ogoniland would likely result in violations – yet still repeatedly solicited and encouraged the intervention of the armed forces in Ogoniland.

Moreover, the evidence provides numerous examples of times when Shell’s requests were quickly followed by action by the security forces. An individual or company can be held criminally responsible for a crime if they encourage, enable, exacerbate or facilitate it, even if they were not direct actors. For example, knowledge of the risks that corporate conduct could contribute to a crime, or a close connection to the perpetrators, could lead to criminal liability.

Shell has denied the allegations by Amnesty. Given the evidence, an investigation into these allegations is required. In 1995, when Ken Saro-Wiwa was one of nine men sentence to death, before his execution he said that one day Shell would face its day in court. We must make that happen.

Although some of the victims and their families filed civil claims against Shell, and Shell has made some payments to families, the evidence against the company has never been heard in court. Shell has paid only with the agreement that they would not accept any liability, describing the payment as a “humanitarian gesture”.

In June 2017, the widows of four of the men charged Shell Oil with complicity in their deaths. Amnesty members around the world have been speaking out in support of Esther Kiobel, one of the four women seeking justice from Shell Oil.

We need you to join thousands of others and take action in support of Esther Kiobel. 


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>>>Read the press release from Amnesty International regarding the complicity of Shell Oil in murder, rape and torture.