Swedwatch welcomes historic indictment against Swedish oil company executives
The chairman and former CEO of Swedish oil company Lundin Energy have been indicted for their involvement in international crimes, allegedly perpetrated between 1999 and 2003 during the civil war in Sudan. Swedwatch welcomes the indictment and urges the company and its shareholders to finally compensate the victims.
Between 1997 and 2003, Lundin Energy (then Lundin Oil) prospected for oil in southern Sudan, which was at the time torn by a brutal civil war. To prevent the war from disrupting the country’s important oil extraction, the Sudanese government engaged in a military campaign to clear the oil areas of civilians, resulting in well-documented violations of human rights. According to the prosecutor the indicted company representatives are suspected of aiding and abetting war crimes committed by the Sudanese government in order to secure the oil areas.
“The decision to indict follows more than a decade of investigations and is of immense significance for the victims of the oil war in Sudan. For decades, they have been denied having their case heard in court. Hopefully, the trial will be the first step in ensuring justice for the victims”, said Olof Björnsson, researcher at Swedwatch.
The criminal investigation into the activities of Lundin Energy was initiated in 2010 after the report Unpaid Debt, published by the European Coalition for Oil in Sudan (ECOS), highlighted the role of the company in the conflict. According to ECOS, as many as 12,000 people died as a result of the war in the Lundin concession area while 160,000 people were forcibly displaced. Swedwatch welcomes that this lengthy investigation has now come to an end.
“Today’s indictment sends a clear signal to all companies operating in conflict-sensitive contexts to act firmly on their responsibility to respect human rights, or risk facing litigation”, said Olof Björnsson.
Research published by Swedwatch in 2017 showed that many Swedish banks and pension funds were invested in the company at the time of the civil war in Sudan, or became shareholders afterwards, when the role played by the oil companies in the conflict was publicly known.
The time has come for investors to consider their responsibilities and lead by example. Being invested in a company whose executives are on trial for war crimes is a serious matter, regardless of whether you are a former or current shareholder. That investors can profit from severe human rights violations and subsequently escape responsibility raises questions about their commitment to advance human rights.
Swedwatch calls on current and former investors to use their leverage to remediate the adverse impacts connected to Lundin Energy’s operations, by demanding an independent investigation to identify victims and families of victims. They should then call on the company to provide adequate compensation for these victims. Investors must also proactively disclose the steps taken to ensure that their future investments are not made at the expense of human lives and dignity.