The CEO and Chairman of the Swedish oil company Lundin Petroleum SA have received final notice of the legal case being brought against them.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority has concluded its investigation and intends to take the two to court for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. Alex Schneiter and Ian Lundin were leading the company’s operations around the turn of the millennium in what is now South Sudan. Lundin Petroleum was notified separately that the company may face a €300 million fine. The trial, which could take two years, is likely to start in the summer of 2019. The two suspects, along with the company itself, deny any wrongdoing.
This would mark the first time that a multi-billion dollar company is indicted for complicity in international crimes since the Nuremberg trials after World War II. The crimes alleged in the Lundin case include the intentional targeting of civilians, violent displacement, deliberate destruction of livelihoods, rape, torture, arson, pillage, and the use of child soldiers. An estimated 12,000 people died and 160,000 were displaced in the area were the Lundin Consortium, which included Petronas from Malaysia and OMV from Austria, was active between 1997 and 2003. Its consequences are still felt today.
A court case would only go so far in bringing justice to those who suffered from Sudan’s oil war. Under international law, victims of human rights abuses have a right to remedy and reparation. However, a Swedish court can only order remedy for individuals represented in court. The 150,000 victims who cannot be personally represented, have no legal recourse.
Representatives of communities in the Lundin Consortium’s concession area issued a claim for remedy and reparations in 2016, but they received no reaction from the company or its investors. The upcoming trial will put the spotlight on the role and responsibility of the investors and financial institutions who have been backing the companies despite publicly available evidence of malfeasance. Most of these investors say they are committed to the right of victims to claim remedy. It remains to be seen if the investors will take the necessary steps to put this commitment into practice. Those investors who simply sell their shares may be accused of having indirectly benefitted from war crimes and indifference to massive human suffering.
The Swedish criminal investigation was triggered by the 2010 report Unpaid Debt that was written by PAX and published by the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS). When ECOS ceased to function after 2011, PAX continued its work for justice for the victims of Sudan’s oil war.
PAX maintains the website www.unpaiddebt.org with background information about the case. We will closely monitor and report on the trial – please see the site for regular updates. Developments can also be followed through Facebook’s Unpaid Debt page.