28 February 2012
by Nina Totenberg
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[7 min 30 sec]
Human rights are front and center at the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday in two cases testing how American law intersects with international law. At issue in both cases is whether foreign nationals in the
United States can sue corporations or other entities in courts for alleged violations of human rights. U.S.
The case that has corporate teeth chattering is a lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell Oil, which is accused of aiding and abetting the Nigerian government in committing atrocities in the 1990s.
The suit was brought by 12 Nigerian citizens, all of whom have been granted political asylum in the
. They are natives of the Ogoni region of United States where Shell Oil has conducted oil exploration for decades. Nigeria
In the mid-1990s, local religious, student and civic leaders began demonstrating peacefully against Shell, protesting that their farmland was being ruined by oil spills and that Shell contributed nothing to the local economy and did not pay for clean up or environmental protection.