After over a decade of pre-litigation action, and with the civil case about to come to court, Royal Dutch Shell has settled: http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssEnergyNews/idUSN0847421220090608
In light of Geoff Sharp’s posting of Michael Moffitt’s new article on settlement (http://mediatorblahblah.blogspot.com/; and http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1412282), this is a challenging case for thinking about the role of settlement. All the more so when the issues at stake include:
- allegations of implications with the human rights abuses of the then-regime in Nigeria;
- allegations of serious environmental abuses;
- implication with the execution of human rights and environmental activists.
And of course the settlement comes not only with a large sum of money attached but also with a denial of any wrongdoing. That’s a familiar part of settlement, to be sure; but it does stretch the boundaries of the role of settlement. However, the families are also the ones who have settled and one can only assume and hope that there is vindication in this for their claims.
But, without findings of liability, and with Shell conceding only that the people have suffered, is it true that:
“The fortitude shown by our clients in the 13-year struggle to hold Shell accountable has helped establish a principle that goes beyond Shell and Nigeria – that corporations, no matter how powerful, will be held to universal human rights standards.”
For further comment – from a human rights angle – see:
I wonder if there’s a parallel here with my earlier posting from the HDC in Geneva, on the development of “outsourcing” of conflict resolution to NGOs. In this case, while the issues at the heart of the case and the claim are those of human rights, corruption, and complicity, the outcome has been arrived at through settlement rather than adjudication – and at the same time the claimants, through their attorneys, express satisfaction with the vindication of the human rights issues. Is this a form of outsourcing of human rights issues to a settlement process? And if part of the deal is the denial of wrongdoing, have the human rights issues been addressed or merely parked?
It’s interesting – as an aside – to do a Google search on the terms “mediating human rights” to see what the search turns up. This is a rich vein to explore!