What does it take to go against a multinational? Esther Kiobel’s husband Barinem was one of the men executed in 1995 after revolting against Shell’s pollution of Ogoniland (Nigeria). Almost 25 years later, Esther takes Shell to court in the Netherlands.
‘He was a peacemaker,’ Esther Kiobel says. She’s talking about her husband Barinem, one of the ‘Ogoni 9’. In the early 1990s, the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta revolted against Shell’s activities there. The oil extraction caused much pollution, while the population did not see a cent of the enormous revenues. In a trial flawed with irregularities, nine Ogoni leaders were sentenced to death. Esther is convinced Shell was involved in the executions. But can she prove that?
We go from Dallas (US), where Esther now lives, to Ogoniland where she is trying to mobilise witnesses for her court case against Shell. In the Dutch courtroom, Esther is flanked by a committed group of lawyers, led by Channa Samkalden. But they face the extremely difficult task of having to prove Shell bribed witnesses. The trial brings up a lot of old emotions. And between headstrong Esther and her lawyers, tensions sometimes flare up as well.
Photo: Amnesty International Nederland.