THE ALIEN TORT CLAIMS ACT
103
IX. Lessons from
Wiwa
The 2009
Wiwa
settlement has been almost universally hailed as a vic-
tory by human rights advocates
.
42
In reality, out-of-court ATCA settlements
pose a threat to ending human rights violations by corporations. The cir-
cumstances surrounding the
Wiwa
case are typical of an ATCA lawsuit —
in fact, the events giving rise to the
Kiobel
case also gave rise to
Wiwa
.
Kiobel and Wiwa protested the building of a Shell pipeline in the Ogoni re-
gion of Nigeria, and Shell allegedly conspired to have the men executed
by a Nigerian tribunal in 1995. Although the
Kiobel
case has of course re-
mained unsettled, in 2009 Shell settled all of the human rights claims of the
plaintiffs in
Wiwa
for $15.5 million.
As part of the settlement, Shell did not admit any wrongdoing, but more
importantly, “the settlement stops the world knowing exactly what was the
company’s relationship with the national government and the military, and
the extent of Shell’s involvement in the human rights abuses that led to
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s execution.
43
The reasons underlying the Shell settlement
may be numerous
.
44
But one possibility is certainly that Shell wanted to
avoid having a court decide whether it, as a corporation, could be held
liable under the ATCA.
42 See, e.g., Ingrid Wuerth,
Wiwa v. Shell: The $15.5 Million Settlement
,
;
Jad Mouawad,
Shell to Pay $15.5 Million to Settle Nigerian Case
,
;
(but see settlement reached in
June 8, 2009 (comparing the settlement amount to a few hours of profit for Shell).
43 John Vidal,
Shell Settlement with Ogani People Stops Short of Full Justice
,
The
.
44 Officially, Shell claims to have offered the money as a “humanitarian gesture.” Jad
Mouawad,
Shell to Pay $15.5 Million to Settle Nigerian Case
,
.
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