An appeal court in the Netherlands has finally ordered Royal Dutch Shell to pay compensation to Nigerian farmers over oil pollution in the Niger Delta.
The court delivered its judgment at the end of a long-running civil case. The farmers were seeking financial compensation and a clean-up by Shell for pollution caused by their pipelines leaking oil into the Niger Delta area.
“Shell Nigeria is sentenced to compensate farmers for damages,” the court said. The bench added that parent company Royal Dutch Shell is also liable to install equipment that could prevent future damage.
At the heart of the case is the principle of whether multinationals in the Netherlands can be held responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries abroad.
The decision can be appealed in the Dutch Supreme Court. However, it represents a step forward for the plaintiffs in a case that is breaking new legal ground.
The company claimed that saboteurs are responsible for leaks in underground oil pipes that have polluted the delta. Shell also argued that it should not be held legally responsible for the actions of a foreign subsidiary.
The case was started in 2008 by the farmers and the Friends of the Earth campaign group. They sought reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta region, the heart of the Nigerian oil industry.
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