Indicted with complicity in grave war crimes – today the trial in the Lundin Oil case begins in Sweden

Today marks the start of a landmark trial in the Stockholm District Court against two former executives of the Swedish oil company Lundin Oil, now Orrön Energy. The two corporate leaders have been indicted with complicity in grave war crimes committed by Sudan’s regime in what is now South Sudan. Civil Rights Defenders will closely monitor the proceedings from the courtroom and publish reports throughout the entirety of the trial. 

For the first time in history, the leadership of a multinational company are put on trial in a European country to answer charges of alleged complicity of war crimes in the conduct of their business activities. The accused individuals are Swedish citizen Ian Lundin, former chairman of the company, and the Swiss citizen Alexandre Schneiter, who was its former CEO. Both are charged with aiding and abetting international law violations in South Sudan in what was at the time the southern parts of Sudan, during the years 1997-2003.

The charges were brought after one of the most extensive preliminary investigations ever conducted by Swedish authorities. Unlike crimes in places like Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, and Syria, there are no international courts or investigative mechanisms related to Sudan or South Sudan that could assist the Swedish investigation. The result is an investigation which is one of the largest in Sweden’s history. Approximately 270 interviews have been conducted, involving 150 individuals, and the full preliminary investigation encompasses around 80,000 pages. 

12,000 people are reported to have been killed, and 160,000 displaced, as Sudan’s military and allied militia groups attacked villages and settlements to protect Lundin Oil’s operations. 

Agreement to secure oil exploration

In 1997, during the ongoing civil war in Sudan, Lundin Oil entered into an agreement with the Sudanese government to facilitate oil exploration in the southern parts of the country. According to the agreement, the Sudanese government would be responsible for creating favourable conditions for the company’s operations by ensuring their protection. This meant that the company enlisted the help of the Sudanese military and regime-affiliated militias to extract oil from a designated area known as Block 5A. At the time the agreement was concluded, the former President Omar al-Bashir was in power. For more than 10 years, he has been wanted by The Hauge-based International Criminal Court (ICC) over charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

According to the indictment in the Stockholm District Court, the Sudanese government was guilty of brutal warfare against the civilian population in violation of international humanitarian law in order to create the conditions for Lundin Oil to conduct its business. Entire villages are reported to have been burned down and civilians have allegedly been bombed and shot down by transport planes and combat helicopters. Despite the knowledge of the brutality of the Sudanese military and militia, Lundin Oil demanded that the regime should be responsible for the security of the operation. 

Justice is possible 

Grave violations of human rights are committed every day all over the globe – by governments as well as companies. It is essential that these serious crimes committed in South Sudan are thoroughly investigated to attain justice and redress for the victims. Corporations must be held accountable for the crimes they commit and the significant human suffering they cause. 

Through legal means, Civil Rights Defenders work to hold perpetrators of grave international crimes accountable and to achieve justice for the victims of such crimes. Among other things, we monitor and report from the trial in the case regarding serious crimes against international law and murder in Iran in the late 1980s. We have also filed criminal complaints against representatives of the Syrian regime to Swedish authorities for war crimes and crimes against humanity after the Syrian regime used sarin gas against civilians in at least two attacks; on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017 and al-Ghouta in 2013.

We are monitoring the trial  

Civil Rights Defenders will closely monitor the proceedings and provide regular updates from the courtroom at the Stockholm District Court throughout the entirety of the trial. A new report will be published every week. Follow the Lundin Oil case trial and read our reports here.

Later this year, we will organise a seminar in Stockholm under the name “Victims and Redress” together with PAX and Global Idé. At the event, we will shed light on crime victims and their right to seek and attain redress both in the Lundin Oil trial, as well as in other similar legal processes – a perspective often forgotten or not taken into consideration. 

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