Victory for victims of Shell’s oil spills


After 13 years, victims of Shell’s oil pollution in the Niger Delta have finally achieved justice in court, in a historic case brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

The director of Milieudefensie and chair of Friends of the Earth Europe, Donald Pols, celebrates outside the Court. © Brontsema / Milieudefensie.
Finally there is hope, some justice for the Nigerian people suffering the consequences of Shell’s oil.
Eric Dooh, Plaintiff.

It took 13 years. Finally, some justice for the people of the oil-soaked Niger Delta. Three Nigerian farmers, victims of oil pollution – supported by Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands – beat one of the world’s most powerful transnational corporations, Shell, in court in the Hague.

As the news spread across the world, people across Nigeria celebrated with victory parties.

“Finally there is hope, some justice for the Nigerian people suffering the consequences of Shell’s oil,” said Eric Dooh, one of the plaintiffs.

Dooh’s home, Goi, was a lush, fertile, thriving village. Until two major oil spills from Shell’s poorly maintained pipeline struck in 2003 and 2004, contaminating land and water. People were left destitute, but Shell denied any responsibility. So, Friends of the Earth joined with Dooh and three other farmers from nearby villages to sue Shell in its home country, the Netherlands.

It took years of gathering evidence and jumping legal hurdles. Finally, the court found that both Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary did not do all that was necessary to prevent and respond to the spill. It is the first time any survivors of Shell’s pollution have won compensation and justice in the home country of the oil giant.

This case has paved the way to justice for victims of corporate crimes. The evidence shows Shell has much more cleaning up to do in Nigeria. But from now on, any Dutch company failing to adhere to human rights and environmental regulations overseas risks being taken to court, held accountable, and forced to pay compensation. Now Friends of the Earth is campaigning for stronger laws to make this avenue easier to access.

Opposition to damaging trade deal mounts

Mounting criticism from NGOs, civil society, and national governments have managed to throw the climate-wrecking EU-Mercosur trade deal into increasing controversy over the last year.

We joined 450 organisations in a new coalition against the deal, and took part in several major protests online and on the streets. We also published investigative reports highlighting the impacts of the EU-Mercosur trade deal on human rights, the environment and food safety. And we co-created awareness-raising videos with activists around Europe and in Latin America.

The mass mobilisation is paying off – national governments including Austria have confirmed they will oppose the deal, and negotiations have been delayed further to address the lack of environmental protections in the current proposal.

A still from our video on the toxic EU-Mercosur trade deal. © FoE Europe.

Campaign to #HoldBizAccountable!

We helped more than half a million people to demand a strong EU law to hold businesses accountable for their impacts on the environment and human rights. We enabled them to have their say in a public consultation by the EU on a new corporate accountability law. Our Hold Business Accountable campaign won the backing of over 150 civil society organisations across Europe. We supported these groups to reach out to citizens, and collaborated with them on inspiring tools and videos about the need to end corporate impunity.

Citizens responded en masse to demand new binding rules on companies and help end the era of corporations wrecking the planet with impunity.

After the consultation ended, the European Parliament adopted a draft report on legislation to hold transnational corporations accountable for their impact overseas.

The era of European companies being allowed to wreck the planet and destroy livelihoods with impunity is coming to a close.
Jill McArdle, Corporate accountability campaigner
in The Guardian.
Friends of the Earth Netherlands held Shell accountable in court. © Hilde Brontsema / Miliedefensie.


We continued exposing the cosy relationship between fossil fuel company lobbyists and politicians. We helped to coordinate a growing coalition of groups calling for Fossil Free Politics around Europe. Social media actions targeted media events discussing climate policies that were sponsored by Shell and other fossil fuel companies. Our reports exposed the influence of the gas industry on EU energy infrastructure decisions; and exposed the concerted lobbying effort by the fossil fuel industry during Covid-19 to win concessions for energy projects and gain access to bailout funds.

Exposing an unknown climate action killer

A web of acronyms and obscure political processes helps corporate interests in Brussels hide their greedy methods. It’s the job of Friends of the Earth to puncture that web and shine a light. And in 2020, that’s just what we did for the little-known Energy Charter Treaty.

It started as an unknown issue. The trade agreement is being used by polluting energy companies to block action on the climate crisis. But by exposing scandals, we helped put the Energy Charter Treaty at the centre of controversy. Scandals like the coal company suing the Netherlands for over a billion euros for phasing out dirty coal power; or the gas company suing Slovenia for demanding an environmental impact assessment for fracking.

It’s now widely accepted that the Energy Charter Treaty is not compatible with the Paris Agreement. Now the campaign is in full swing to end it.

Climate campaigners from all over Europe met in Austria at at the start of the year before the pandemic. © FoE Europe.

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