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US: Shell Nigeria case blow for Alien Tort campaigners

Date: 22 Apr 2013

Photo of oil platform in Nigeria

The US Supreme Court has thrown out a case against Shell alleging human rights abuses in Nigeria. The nine justices were unanimous in their view that the use of the Alien Tort Statute was not intended to be applied outside the US.

This finding will have major implications for how campaigners have sought to use this particular legislation to bring companies to account for actions allegedly taken in foreign jurisdictions. Rio Tinto had a similar case pending over it's role in Papua New Guinea, and Exxon in Indonesia.

The Shell lawsuit was brought by 12 Nigerians who alleged that the company was complicit in attacks on protestors in the early 1990s. Whilst the finding ruled that this case could not be heard in US courts, it did not exclude the possibility that such cases where there was a stronger US link could still be brought.

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