News24

Oil firm blamed for Sudan war crimes

2010-06-08 21:39

Stockholm - A consortium led by Swedish Lundin Petroleum is partly to blame for war crimes committed in Sudan between 1997 and 2003, a report by the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan charged on Tuesday.

ECOS, an umbrella group of European organisations "working for peace and justice in Sudan", said it believed Lundin and its consortium partners Petronas Carigali Overseas from Malaysia and OMV Exploration from Austria "may have been complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity" in Sudan.

Lundin Petroleum, previously called Lundin Oil, denied the allegations.

The 100-page report said Lundin's consortium, which also included the Sudanese state-owned oil company Sudapet, had signed a contract with Khartoum for oil exploitation in a concession area called Block 5A in the south "that was not at that time under full government control".

"The start of oil exploitation set off a vicious war in the area. Between 1997 and 2003, international crimes were committed on a large scale in what was essentially a military campaign by the government of Sudan to secure and take control of the oil fields in Block 5A," it charged.

The crimes - including widespread "killing of civilians, rape of women, abduction of children, torture and forced displacements" - were mainly committed by the Sudanese army and its main opponent the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

The ECOS report, written with the support of European Union-funded NGO-network Fatal Transactions, however argued that the Lundin consortium had set the wheels in motion by signing its contract with Khartoum "without any guarantees that human rights and international law would be respected".

The report also charged that the Swedish, Austrian and Malaysian governments had "failed in their international obligations to prevent human rights violations and international crimes".

It called on them to investigate whether the consortium members knew or should have known that their activities "assisted those who were responsible for gross human rights abuses".

According to ECOS, some 12 000 people were killed or died from hunger, exhaustion and conflict-related diseases in the Block 5A from 1997 to 2003, while around 160 000 people were forcibly displaced.

In an open letter to Lundin Petroleum shareholders posted on the company's website, Chairman Ian Lundin insisted the report presented no new evidence of any wrongdoings, pointing out the company had refuted similar charges in the past.

"We again categorically refute all the allegations and inferences of wrongdoing attributed to Lundin Petroleum in the report. We strongly feel that our activities contributed to peace and development in Sudan," he wrote.