n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - Putting a shell over legal liability in conflict zones - : Africa-wide - investing in conflict zones

Volume 2013, Issue 06
  • ISSN :


For most investors around the world, investing in conflict zones just got a little less risky. The 17 April ruling by the United States (US) Supreme Court, dismissing a suit brought against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell Plc for alleged complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria, is a victory for investors and for countries eager to attract further investment. Perhaps even more importantly, it is a rare defeat for the extraterritorial application of US law, which had heretofore been expanding in scope and application. As such, this ruling shuts down a potentially expansive and expensive avenue of legal liability for international companies. Most media sources have hailed the opinion as a significant defeat for human rights advocates, but they are mistaken. An analysis of the opinion of the court makes clear that Shell's alleged actions (or complicity) were too far removed from US jurisdiction to be found liable. But the decision also clarifies that US nationals (including US companies) can be held accountable for violations of human rights anywhere on earth, thus affirming a new standard of accountability for US corporations and citizens.

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