The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Esther Kiobel filed the case in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 law, saying her husband Barinem Kiobel was executed by the Nigerian military with the alleged backing of Shell.
Advocacy group EarthRights International said Monday's arguments were viewed as favorable for Kiobel.
"The court did not seem to be buying Shell's position that corporations or 'people' that commit human rights abuses in other countries are somehow immune from liability in U.S. courts," a statement read.
Shell argued the issue shouldn't be considered in U.S. courts because it's a foreign company facing claims for actions outside the United States. Kiobel is a Nigerian national, though the Alien Tort Statute gives foreign nationals the right to sue in federal courts for alleged violations of international law or treaties signed by the United States with foreign countries. Kiobel filed her case in 2002 before becoming a U.S. citizen.
A decision in the case is expected before the Supreme Court term ends in June.
Earthrights International filed a Freedom of Information Act request in July seeking information about whether business interests of Cabinet-level officials in the United States were connected to the Kiobel case.