Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Shell)

The Kiobel v Shell case sparked the creation of Banyan: SOAS advocates.

In October 2011, Deval Desai, a research associate at SOAS, pulled together a group of postgraduate law students.These students would go on to perform extensive academic research in order to support an amicus curiae brief submitted by a group of eminent legal historians at the US Supreme Court.

For further information on the case itself, we recommend this article by Peter Weiss on the Guardian Website.

The SOAS students involved were tasked with researching material regarding the period in which the Alien Tort Statute 1789 was created. What did the US government of the time mean by corporations? What were the proposed implications of such a wide ranging law? How did other governments of the time view extra-territorial jurisdiction?

All of these questions would be addressed by different research teams.

Some were sent to the Lloyds archives at the Guildhall Library Archives to search through insurance claims of ships seized or lost abroad. Their task was to determine how and when such situations were dealt with by English courts in foreign lands.

Other teams were dispatched to the British LibraryLondon Metropolitan Archives and the National Archives at Kew.

Their tasks were to determine what a corporation was in 1789, how extra territorial jurisdiction was considered (by the British government especially), how the ‘corporations’ of the time such as the East India Company and South Sea Company were treated when they committed torts overseas and finally how the Law of Nations in 1789 would have viewed the extent of a law such as the Alien Tort Statute.

Further research led us to the Senate House Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature as well as extensive online research of digitized law reports from the 18thand 19th centuries.

The outcome of research was forwarded to a team at the Harvard Human Rights Clinic, in charge of drafting the amicus curiae brief. A copy of this brief can be found here.

The Kiobel v Shell case is being reheard in the new term of the Supreme Court (see further information here.) Students have continued working toward the new hearing and their work has been recognized as truly invaluable.

Other than a decisive assistance in the Kiobel case, the work conducted on the Kiobel case led to the creation of Banyan: SOAS advocates.

We at Banyan are going to grow beyond the Kiobel case to supporting projects from many third party organizations. The Kiobel case merely shows a small aspect of what we can organise and what can do to assist projects.

It also illustrates our determination to pursue our goals as laid out in our mission statement, to assist worthy human rights, social advocacy and development orientated projects, in every way a group of hardworking, versatile and skilled postgraduate students can.


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