By Scotty Reid, 10/1/2012, news, politics, opinion
One of the results of the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the SCOTUS, was that corporations have broad first amendment rights as if they are blood and flesh people. This ruling cleared the way for the unprecedented spending by corporations to influence the 2012 Presidential and Congressional elections.
Justice Anthony Kennedy who sided with the majority wrote in Citizens United,
“If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech."
But can they be fined and/or jailed for engaging in murder conspiracies?
The question arising before the Supreme Court this week is on whether Corporations can be held liable for their crimes by foreign citizens in U.S. courts. At issue is the torture and murder of Nigerian activists who protested the dumping of waste from oil production by the Royal Dutch Shell corporation that was poisoning the environment of their lands and water for decades.
One of the alleged Shell backed killings involved Ken Saro-Wiwa who was an Nigerian media producer and environmental activist who worked with his tribe, the Ogoni people, to defend their lands through non-violent means forming the group Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People to that end. The Nigerian government was also a target of criticism based on it’s alleged failure to enforce environmental laws. After the murder of several other Ogoni Chiefs taking part in MSOP who allegedly were involved in a disagreement within the group over strategy, Ken Saro-Wiwa was quickly blamed, arrested and tried by a specially convened military tribunal which resulted in his conviction and execution by hanging. Witnesses against him would later recant their testimony implicating Saro-Wiwa stating that they were paid by Nigerian military officials and offered jobs with Royal Dutch Shell to commit perjury. The same would happen to eight other leaders of the activist group MSOP and Shell Corporation is alleged to be behind the scheme to permanently silence opponents of their activities in Nigeria.
The families of victims brought a lawsuit against the oil giant in the case Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. which is being argued before the Supreme Court. The court must decide the scope and reach of the Alien Tort Claims Act which the Center for Constitutional Rights says can be used as “a powerful legal tool that allows foreign victims of human rights abuse to seek civil remedies in U.S. courts”.
To this date, no one from the Nigerian government nor Royal Dutch Shell has been held criminally responsible for the conspiracy to torture and execute these activists. While financial restitution is part of reconciliation, criminal penalties seem in order and unfortunately, that does not seem to be an issue before the courts. People go to prison when they commit crimes and if corporations are people too, then the real people sitting on their boards and making decisions ought to suffer the same consequences for their criminal actions.