Next week Royal Dutch Shell will finally appear in court to answer charges that it was complicit in the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the author and oil company critic executed by Nigeria's former military regime in 1995. Saro-Wiwa's family accuses the oil company of "a systemic campaign of human rights violations" to silence opposition to its operations, and alleges that Shell bribed witnesses at Saro-Wiwa's show trial. The case, in an American court, could have major repercussions for the oil industry, reports the New York Times.
After decades when they seemed unstoppable, oil companies are facing substantial legal challenges: Chevron is in the dock for pollution in Ecuador, while Exxon is being sued by Indonesian villagers. But it's Shell's trial for crimes against humanity, after years of attempts, that stands to transform the oil industry most profoundly. "If a jury found Shell guilty," said one activist, "this would change the behavior of the industry pretty quickly."