Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Questions due on human rights lawsuits


News Services

March 26, 2004, 12:14AM


WASHINGTON A U.S. law firm plans to put questions to former Royal Dutch/Shell Group Chairman Philip Watts next month in a suit alleging human rights violations in Nigeria.


Watts was ousted three weeks ago as chairman of the world's third-largest oil company over a proven reserves accounting scandal.


Before becoming chairman, he ran a Shell development company in Nigeria's southern delta in the early 1990s, when the Anglo-Dutch company clashed with the local Ogoni people.


"We're deposing Mr. Watts on the 16th and 17th of April in London," said Stephen Whinston, an attorney at the Philadelphia-based firm of Berger & Montague.


The firm filed a class-action lawsuit in 2002 on behalf of about 50,000 Ogonis "subjected to various types of human rights violations at the hands of the Nigerian government," Whinston said.


The action accused Shell of "purchasing ammunition and using its helicopters and boats and providing logistical support for ... a military foray into Ogoniland designed to terrorize the civilian population into ending peaceful protests against Shell's environmentally unsound oil exploration."


In another development, a federal judge in San Francisco refused to throw out claims that ChevronTexaco may be liable for human rights abuses at a Nigerian oil platform operated by a subsidiary.


U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston said Nigerians suing the company presented enough evidence to proceed to trial on claims ChevronTexaco is liable for its Nigerian unit's handling of incidents at the oil project.


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