Letter: Execution of Saro-Wiwa flouted justice

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The Independent Online
Execution of Saro-Wiwa

flouted justice

Sir: Richard D North's extensive apologia for Shell Nigeria ("Can you be sure of Ken Saro-Wiwa?", 8 November) leaves an unpleasant taste on the eve of the first anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa's judicial execution, and the long-delayed visit by Commonwealth foreign ministers to Abuja in a few days' time.

Breathtakingly, it ignores the fact that Saro-Wiwa and the other executed Ogonis never received a fair trial - a matter clearly set out by Michael Birnbaum QC and other international observers; that the Petroleum Minister had threatened punitive action against Shell and BP on 17 July 1995 (as reported by the CHRI mission of that month in Nigeria - Stolen by Generals); that the executions by General Abacha defied pleas for clemency by several Commonwealth leaders, which some thought had been heeded; and that Shell, responding to pressure from Amnesty and others, is now incorporating a human rights commitment in its business mission statement.

At a time when many international journalists are having difficulty in getting visas to visit Nigeria, such an unbalanced report - "You can be sure of Shell" - does a disservice to oppressed Nigerians and to the 52 other Commonwealth states which have rightly suspended the military regime from membership. If the eight foreign ministers visiting Abuja on 19 November were to depend as exclusively on a dictator's briefing as North has on Shell's, their view would be treated with distrust.


Chair, Trustee Committee,

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

London WC1