Shell involved in murder, rape, torture in Nigeria: Amnesty International

Human rights organization Amnesty International is calling on Nigeria, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom to launch a criminal investigation into Shell and the possibility that company officials tacitly encouraged the Nigerian military government in Ogoniland to commit atrocities in the 1990s, including rapes, murders, acts of torture, and the burning of villages. 

According to Amnesty, internal documents from Shell, witness statements and documents from the Amnesty archives show that Shell encouraged the Nigerian army to take action against protests by the Ogoni community, despite knowing about the brutal way in which the army operates .

Residents of Ogoniland in Nigeria started protesting against Shell in the nineties, after the Dutch-English oil giant caused massive environmental damage in the area with oil spills. The protests were led by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) led by Ken Saro-Wiwa. 

In 1990 Shell asked a paramilitary police unit for protection against protests in the village of Umeuchem, according to Amnesty. Over the following two days, officers invaded the village, killing at least 80 people and burning 595 houses down. "Despite this, Shell continued to ask for military help in the following years, which in turn led to new bloodshed", Amnesty writes.

Internal memos and minutes of meeting show that Shell urged senior officials to provide military support, even after the Nigerian military forces killed, tortured and raped many demonstrators, the human rights organization says. Shell also provided material support to the military - the company financed at least one army commander who is known for his brutal actions and also transported army troops to break up protests,according to Amnesty. The human rights organization adds that the Shell directors in The Hague and London were fully aware of what was going on in Nigeria.

Internal documents from Shell also show that Brian Anderson, Shell president in Nigeria, had at least three meetings with Nigerian general Sani Abacha in 1994 and 1995. During these meetings they discussed the "problems of the Ogoni and Ken Saro-Wiwa" and how Shell suffered financially under the protests. MOSOP leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders from the group were arrested soon after these meetings. They were executed in November 1995. 

According to Amnesty, no investigation into Shell's involvement in these atrocities has ever been done. The organization therefore compiled a criminal file which the authorities can use to start a proper investigation. "The law must prevail for Ken Saro-Wiwa and the thousands of others whose lives were destroyed because Shell destroyed Ogoniland", Amnesty writes.

In June four Nigerian widows also accused Shell of complicity in the executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight fellow activists in 1995. They demanded public apologies and compensation for the damages done.