[Online discussion] Kiobel in The Hague: holding Shell accountable in the Dutch courts

16 October 2020
  • Starts at: 16:00h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: Online
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Instituut


Watch a recording of this discussion here

On Friday, 16 October, from 16.00-17.00, the Asser Institute's 'Doing business right' project organised an online discussion about the Kiobel v. Shell case, currently before Dutch courts in the Hague. The discussion retraced the trajectory followed by the case in reaching The Hague, explained the arguments raised by both parties in the proceedings, and assessed the potential relevance of the future ruling for the wider debate on corporate accountability/liability for human rights violations. 


In 1995, nine local activists from the Ogoniland region of Nigeria (the Ogoni nine) were executed by the Nigerian authorities, then under the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. They were protesting against the widespread pollution stemming from the exploitation of local oil resources by a Nigerian subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell when they were arrested and found guilty of murder in a sham trial. Their deaths led first to a series of complaints against Royal Dutch Shell in the United States on the basis of the alien tort statute (ATS). One of them, lodged by Esther Kiobel, the wife of one of those killed (Dr Barinem Kiobel), reached the US Supreme Court. Famously, the Court decided to curtail the application of the ATS in situations that do not sufficiently 'touch and concern' the territory of the United States. 

This ruling put an end to Esther Kiobel's US lawsuit, but it did not stop her, together with three other widows (Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula), from seeking to hold the multinational company accountable for its alleged involvement in the deaths of their husbands. Instead, in 2017, they decided to continue their quest for justice on Royal Dutch Shell’s home turf, before Dutch courts in The Hague. 25 years after the death of the Ogoni nine, the court in The Hague just finished hearing the pleas of the parties and will render its much-awaited decision in the coming months. 

Confirmed speakers 

-Tom de Boer (Human rights lawyer representing the claimants, Prakken d'Oliveira)  

-Lucas Roorda (Utrecht University)

- Tara van Ho (Essex University) 

Antoine Duval, Senior researcher at the T.M.C Asser Instituut, will moderate the discussion 

This event was organised by the Asser Institute’s ‘Doing business right’ project on furthering fundamental research and public debates on the responsibilities of businesses in times of globalisation. The project also organises a week-long winter academy on ‘Due diligence as a master key to responsible business conduct.’ Click here to learn more about this winter academy and pre-register.