Thanks to The Guardian and Ridwan for this story:
Ken Saro-Wiwa swore that one day Shell, the oil giant, would answer for his death in a court of law. Next month, 14 years after his execution, the Nigerian environmental activist's dying wish is to be fulfilled.
In a New York federal court, Shell and one of its senior executives are to face charges that in the early 1990s in Nigeria they were complicit in human rights abuses, including summary execution and torture.
The Anglo-Dutch company, if found liable, could be forced to pay hundreds of millions of pounds in damages. No multinational has ever been found guilty of human rights abuses, although two previous cases saw major claims settled outside court.
Saro-Wiwa became famous as a campaigner on behalf of the Ogoni people, leading peaceful protests against the environmental damage caused by oil companies in the Niger Delta. There was worldwide condemnation when, along with eight other activists, he was hanged by the Nigerian military government in 1995 after being charged with incitement to murder after the death of four Ogoni elders. Many of the prosecution witnesses later admitted that they had been bribed to give evidence against Saro-Wiwa, who was a respected television writer and businessman.
As shocking as this sounds, and it is shocking that a corporation like Shell could be involved in murder and mayhem, it is hardly new.
Ford Motor Company was involved in Argentina's time of terror in the 70's. From The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein:
It was in Argentina, however, that the involvement of Ford's local subsidiary with the terror apparatus was most overt. The company supplied cars to the military, and the green Ford Falcon sedan was the vehicle used for thousands of kidnappings and disappearances. The Argentine psychologist and playwright Eduardo Pavlovsky described the car as "the symbolic expression of terror. A death-mobile."'
After the coup in Argentina,
"The Ford factory in suburban Buenos Aires was turned into an armed camp; in the weeks that followed, it was swarming with military vehicles, including tanks and helicopters buzzing overhead. Workers have testified to the presence of a battalion of one hundred soldiers permanently stationed at the factory. "It looked like we were at war with Ford. And it was all directed at us, the workers," recalled Pedro Troiani one of the union delegates.
"Soldiers prowled the facility grabbing and hooding the most active union members, helpfully pointed out by the factory foreman. Troiani was among pulled of the assembly line. He recalled that "before detaining me, they walked me around the factory, they did it right out in the open so that the people would see: Ford did this to eliminate unionism in the factory." Most startling was what happened next: rather than being rushed off to a nearby prison, Troiani and others say soldiers took them to a detention facility that had been set up inside the factory gates. (Bold from me)
In their place of work, where they had been negotiating contracts just days before, workers were beaten, kicked and in two cases electroshocked. They were taken to outside prisons where the torture continued for weeks and, in some cases, months. According to the workers' lawyers, at least twenty-five Ford union reps were kidnapped in the period, half of them detained on the company grounds in a facility that human rights groups in Argentina are lobbying to have placed on an official list of former clandestine detention facilities."
According to Klein,
"In 2002 federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Ford Argentina on behalf of Troiani and fourteen other workers, alleging that the company is legally responsible for the repression that took place on its property. "Ford [Argentina] and its executives colluded in the kidnapping of its own workers, and I think they should be held responsible for that," says Troiani. Mercedes-Benz (a subsidiary of Daimler-Chrysler) is facing a similar investigation stemming from allegations that the company collaborated with the military during the 1970s to purge one of its plants of union leaders, allegedly giving names and addresses of sixteen workers who were later disappeared, fourteen of the permanently.
According to the Latin American historian Karen Robert, by the end of the dictatorship, "virtually all the shop-floor delegates had been disappeared from the country's biggest firms...such as Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, and Fiat Concord." Both Ford and Mercedes-Benz deny that their executives played any role in the repression. The cases are ongoing.
Think it can't happen here in the United States?
I'm going to follow this case and post over time.
Thanks to Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, pp 108, 109