The Hague Court of Appeal ordered Shell on Friday to compensate Nigerian farmers for two oil spills in the country 13 years ago, in the first lawsuit in which a company has been held liable in the Netherlands for its actions abroad.
The ruling of the Dutch court is setting a precedent for future lawsuits brought against oil firms in the countries where they are based, instead of the countries where oil spills or oil pollution has allegedly taken place.
“After 13 years, justice!” Friends of the Earth Europe tweeted after the Hague court’s verdict.
Donald Pols, Friends of the Earth Netherlands director, said, as carried by The Associated Press:
“From this moment onwards, Dutch multinationals will be held accountable for their activities and their actions in developing countries.”
The court will decide at a later stage what compensation Shell’s Nigerian unit will have to pay for the oil spills.
Shell, for its part, continues to say that the spills were the result of sabotage, which has been frequent in the Niger Delta in Nigeria.
“We continue to believe that the spills in Oruma and Goi were the result of sabotage. We are therefore disappointed that this court has made a different finding on the cause of these spills and in its finding that” the Nigerian unit of Shell is liable, the Anglo-Dutch major said in a statement, as carried by Bloomberg.
“Sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining are a major challenge in the Niger Delta,” Shell noted.
Shell has been taken to a Dutch court in a separate case brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, which argued in court that “Shell is violating its duty of care and threatening human rights by knowingly undermining the world’s chances of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius” during the hearings that ended last month.
The Dutch Court of Justice is expected to deliver a verdict in the case on May 26, 2021.