Nigerian farmers in pollution fight can sue Shell in Dutch courts

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On Friday a court in The Hague ruled that four Nigerian farmers and fishermen can sue Shell in courts in a Dutch court for pollution caused by oil spills in the African country. "The Dutch court and this court consider it has jurisdiction in the case against Shell and its subsidiary in Nigeria", the judge said, news wire AFP reports.

The four Nigerian farmers and fishermen first filed this lawsuit in the Netherlands in 2008, with the help of the Dutch branch of environmental group Friends of the Earth. The farmers want Shell to clean up the oil spills in four very polluted villages in the Niger Delta, prevent future spills and pay compensation. Shell wants the judges to scrap Dutch jurisdiction on cases involving Nigeria and declare the farmers' appeal inadmissible, according to the news wire.

In January 2013 a lower Dutch court ruled mostly in Shell's favor, ruling that Shell has to pay compensation in only one of the four cases. The Appeals Court in The Hague decided differently.And rejected all Shell's appeals.

"The ruling is a major victory, not only for the farmers, but indeed for the people of Nigeria", Friends of the Earth spokesperson Geert Ritsema said after the ruling. "It sets a massive precedent, which means that Dutch courts can make judgments about Dutch companies in other countries." He added that the farmers, who were following the proceedings via Skype, are "so happy that their efforts were not in vain".

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