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New Faculty Member Jennifer Green Sees Wiwa v. Shell to Settlement

JUNE 18, 2009—Jennifer M. Green will join the University of Minnesota Law School faculty this fall. The former senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and adjunct professor at City University of New York School of Law had been uncertain about her start date pending completion of a major human rights case.

On June 8, 2009, the proceedings finally came to an end. After a 13-year struggle, a settlement of $15.5 million was reached in the cases of Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Wiwa v. Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell Nigeria), and Wiwa v. Anderson.

The suits against Shell involved the families of nonviolent protestors to the company's oil production practices and the damages those practices were causing to the environment, people, and communities of the Ogoni region of Nigeria. Peaceful Ogoni activists, led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, were arrested by the military government. In 1995, nine of them, including Wiwa, were hanged. The lawsuits charged Shell with complicity in the abuses and other human rights violations against the activists.

Green had initiated action against Royal Dutch/Shell Co., its subsidiary Shell Nigeria, and 1994-96 head of Shell Nigeria Brian Anderson in 1996 in her capacity with CCR, and she continued to represent the plaintiffs. In addition to CCR, EarthRights International and private law firms represented the Ogoni families.

The settlement will compensate the 10 individual plaintiffs who lost relatives, partially cover legal costs, and establish the Kiisi Trust. The trust will provide educational and adult literacy programs, skills and agricultural development, women's programs, and small-business support for the Ogoni people.

Green is quoted in a June 8 press release issued by the CCR as saying, "This was one of the first cases to charge a multinational corporation with human rights violations, and this settlement confirms that multinational corporations can no longer act with the impunity they once enjoyed."

The plaintiffs were represented by 15 attorneys, who noted in their June 8 statement that although their clients now have resources to begin rebuilding their lives, "the Ogoni people have many outstanding issues with Shell, and it is Shell's responsibility to resolve those issues with the Ogoni people themselves."

The nonprofit New York-based CCR was founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South. It is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Green has been with CCR since she joined the organization as an International Human Rights Fellow in 1991. She has also served as director of Harvard Law School's Clinical Human Rights Program, worked on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and on human rights claims in the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and as co-counsel in the case against Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel Constant.