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3 lawyers test human rights cases from abroad in Supreme Court

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Esther Kiobel's husband, Barinem Kiobel, was arrested in 1994 along with Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa and others. They had spoken out against the government's violent suppression of environmental activists who opposed Shell's oil and gas drilling in Nigeria. Kiobel was found guilty of murder by a Nigerian military court in a trial that the U.S. State Department said lacked due process, and he was hanged in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, in 1995.

With no recourse in Nigeria, Esther, who had received asylum in the United States, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York alleging among other things that Shell cooperated with the Nigerian military, resulting in crimes against humanity. She relied on a 200-year-old U.S. law called the Alien Tort Statute. While the case was under way, Shell won a ruling in September 2010 from the influential 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said Shell could not be held liable under the statute because it was a corporation. It was a major shock to human rights lawyers, who had brought more than 100 such cases against corporations in the previous two decades.

TEAMING UP AGAIN

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