In their own moving words: Lundin victims cry for justice in South Sudan
“Lundin Petroleum to go on trial for war crimes”
reads the headline in a report issued on December 18, 2018 by Pax for Peace. This Netherlands-based human rights organization has spearheaded the 16-year struggle to bring Lundin, the Swedish petroleum company, to justice for the crimes it allegedly committed during its exploration for oil in what is now South Sudan in 1997-2003.
The report goes on to state:
“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 full report:
The crimes said to have been committed by Lundin are grave in severity and scope, as the report details:
“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 where the Lundin Consortium, which included Petronas from Malaysia and OMV from Austria, was active between 1997 and 2003. Its consequences are still felt today.”
That Lundin – in a precedent-setting move in international jurisprudence – and its executives are being held accountable for these crimes against humanity and the environment is primarily due to pressure from the victims themselves, who – defying the government of South Sudan’s concerted efforts to stifle them – issued in 2016 the following moving plea:
We claim our right to effective remedies and reparation for the crimes that have been committed against us. We lived through the unspeakable horrors of Sudan’s oil war. Our villages have been burned down, our daughters raped, children abducted, parents beaten to death, cattle stolen, communities uprooted and displaced. The human rights abuses of the oil war have devastated our lives. As victims of human rights abuses, we have the right to remedy and reparation. This right has been denied to us and we claim it now.
Crimes have been committed by a variety of armed forces after the Government of Sudan decided to let international companies exploit oil on our land. The Lundin Consortium found our oil, sold it for a fortune, and left. Its managers are expected to stand trial in Sweden shortly for complicity in crimes committed against us. The Consortium members and their shareholders are indebted to us and it is time to pay.
South Sudan is in turmoil and its authorities are unable to govern the country effectively and equitably. Consequently, a remedy and reparation process will have to be independently managed, without any political interference. Because we suffered together, we want collective reparation. Because we need a transparent and accountable process, we solicit impartial international parties to initiate and oversee a remedy process. We would appreciate if Sweden, Lundin Petroleum’s home country, could take the lead to realize this.
Liech Victims Voices, Juba, May 2016
This message was endorsed during four consecutive meetings of representatives of the communities that have been affected by the oil war in Lundin’s Block 5A. They formed the Liech Victims Voices. The LVV has branches in South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya and is headed by Rev. James Ninrew and Rev. Matthew Deng MP. Its members trust them to defend their interests and to speak on their behalf. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.