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U.S. Supreme Court hears corporate human rights case

According to Reuters, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in the case of Esther Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.

The plaintiffs in the case claim that Royal Dutch Shell Plc. was complicit in the use of violent tactics against oil exploration protestors in Nigeria.

According to, one of the plaintiffs, Esther Kiobel, is the widow of one of nine anti-Shell protesters who were executed by the Nigerian military in 1995.

The purpose of the hearings was to decide whether corporations can be sued in the United States for suspected involvement in human rights abuses outside of the U.S.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that corporations that have a presence in the U.S. should be held accountable in U.S. courts for committing or assisting foreign governments in torture, executions, genocide, and other human rights abuses abroad.

The court considered the reach of a 1789 law which human rights lawyers have been using since the 1980s to sue multi-national corporations suspected of complicity in human rights abuses.  At this point the court was only considering whether or not the case could be tried in the U.S.

The Obama administration and international human rights organizations have come out in favor of the plaintiff’s, advocating corporate liability.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has argued in favor of Shell claiming that what happened in Nigeria has no connection to the U.S.

The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision by the end of June.

2 Comments on U.S. Supreme Court hears corporate human rights case

  1. Wow, the CoC is saying okey dokey to the actions of a corporation? Who woulda thunk that the corporate-lobbying arm of the US government would blindly have their noses up the a$$ of a major corporation? Everybody employed by the CoC is a traitor as far as I'm concerned, yes, even the secretarys are complicit.

    I just deleted a rant about how I'm going to boycott Shell, then I realized that they probably all do the same thing.

    Good for Obama coming out against them. Corporations need to be held liable for their actions. They wanted to be recognized as people, unless it doesn't suit them. Anybody have any idea how much money Shell has donated to SuperPACs?…lol…I went to look up that statistic, and they don't just donate, they actually have their OWN! So, they are apparently a big believer in the "coporate personhood" thing.

  2. Larry Scott // Mar 8, 2012 at 10:33 am //

    The implications of a ruling against Royal Dutch on corporate liability is inormous, but the over riding principle must be that corporation must be accountable for its actions that offend against internations accepted standards of human rights.
    As important as corporations feel that their efforts are in the field research and invention, it is quite wrong for them to expect that they can do so over and above the human factor, which no doubt they claim to working to be advance.
    No price is too high for the protection individual human rights

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