Dutch court grants Greenpeace right to stage peaceful protests against
Amsterdam, October 5, 2012 -- Royal Dutch Shell has failed in its bid to
win a sweeping injunction against two offices of Greenpeace, a setback to the
company’s attempt to end protests by the environmental group over Arctic oil
In a ruling issued today, Shell’s proposed injunction was rebuffed by the
President of the Amsterdam court, Han Jongeneel, who said the protests
Greenpeace Netherlands has already taken in the Netherlands at Shell’s
headquarters and petrol stations were both proportionate and appropriate in
light of Greenpeace’s earlier efforts to end Shell’s Arctic oil drilling through
“A company like Shell, that is taking actions or plans to take actions that
are controversial in society and which many people will object to, can and
should expect that actions will be taken to try to change its mind. Such actions
– in order to be effective – will have to be capable of disadvantaging Shell,”
“The principle of proportionality entails that actions should not go beyond
what is necessary to reach the intended goal. To date, Greenpeace has respected
this requirement by not taking action at all Shell fuel stations (about 600),
but at approximately 70. Therefore, there is no need to grant an injunction on
this point; although Greenpeace will have to continue taking this requirement
into account in future,” the judge said.
The ruling, which is in place for the next six months, allows activists to
stage protests at Shell properties in the Netherlands for a maximum of two hours
and to disrupt fuel sales for up to an hour.
Greenpeace is pursuing a major international campaign against the oil giant
over its plans to drill in the melting Arctic, and Greenpeace offices across the
globe have staged a series of peaceful direct actions at fuel stations, on
icebreaking ships and at company offices over the past year.
Responding to the news, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi
“Shell’s latest attempt to silence its critics has failed. The judge
rejected the majority of this injunction and has reminded the company that civil
disobedience is a right in democracies, even when its business is impacted. Over
two million people have joined our campaign to protect the Arctic and they will
not be deterred by unwarranted legal bullying.
“We must ask ourselves which party in this case presents a greater threat
to the public interest – a peaceful environmental group or a desperate oil
company determined to send rigs into the freezing Arctic ocean. Shell has no
credible response plan in the event of an oil spill, which would be a financial
and environmental disaster.
“This injunction will not prevent us from opposing Arctic drilling
passionately and peacefully both in the Netherlands and across the world. We
can’t match Shell’s enormous financial muscle, but we have creativity and
millions of people behind us. This is the defining environmental battle of our
time and we have only just begun.”
Shell initially demanded an injunction that would have prevented Greenpeace
activists or sympathisers anywhere in the world from protesting legally within
500 meters of any Shell property – even on public land at the risk of fines of
more than 1 million euros.
The company was forced to narrow its request after the judge cautioned that
he could throw the case out if he considered the claim excessive. The judge
granted a limited injunction, which left two offices – Greenpeace Netherlands
and Greenpeace International – facing penalties of 25,000 euros for every hour
that they are in breach of the injunction.
This year Shell has pursued a highly aggressive legal strategy against
Greenpeace and a range of other environmental groups:
• In the United States, Greenpeace US is subject to an injunction
preventing staff or supporters from coming within 500 metres of any Shell
drilling or support vessel.
• Separately, Greenpeace US and 12 other US environmental and Indigenous
groups are being sued to preempt challenges to the company’s oil spill response
• In New Zealand, police are pursuing an inflated NZD 725,000 (€467,000)
damage claim on behalf of Shell against activists, including actress Lucy
Lawless, who occupied one of its two Arctic drilling rigs.
Shell’s final request contained a clause which demands that Greenpeace
International “instruct other Greenpeace offices around the world to refrain
from any action that would interfere with Shell’s business in the
The injunction granted today is limited to Greenpeace International and
Greenpeace Netherlands. National and regional Greenpeace offices around the
world operate independently in contributing to the implementation of global
campaign strategies decided by Greenpeace International.