Nigerian villagers took Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell to court yesterday, accusing the company of polluting waterways and land around their homes.
The villagers, together with campaign group Friends of the Earth, launched their claim in a civil court in The Hague, where Shell has its joint global headquarters. They are suing for unspecified damages.
The court case concerns three oil leaks at three locations in the Niger Delta region between 2004 and 2007.
Shell has denied responsibility, saying the leaks were caused by vandalism, which it has says it has demonstrated in court with video evidence and official reports.
Since the spillage, Shell said it has played its part in cleaning up the oil spill.
Judges are expected to deliver a verdict at the start of the new year.
Around 150,000 barrels of oil are stolen every day in the Delta, worth around $6bn (£3.7bn) each year.
Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands said yesterday that the outcome for this case could have a “major legal impact internationally”.
If the Dutch court holds Shell responsible for not cleaning up the oil pollution adequately, it “could lead to more transnational legal cases”, the campaign group said.