Report 9: Part Seven of the Prosecution’s presentation 

Gavel on a dark background

The prosecution spent most of this week’s proceedings describing the widespread offensive military attacks allegedly conducted in Block 5A by the Government of Sudan and their regulated militias during 2002 and 2003. It should be noted that these accounts of the conflict are disputed by the defense, who will get the opportunity to present their arguments on the 29th of November 2023. The following account represents the prosecution’s arguments and relies heavily on international reports from non-governmental organizations who visited Block 5A in 2002 and 2003.  

This report contains graphic descriptions of violence and sexual assault.  

The Government Takes Nhialdiu

If you have not read last week’s report, see here for an account of the events leading up to the alleged agreement between the Government of Sudan and Lundin Petroleum to construct an All-Weather Road to Nhialdiu and the purported ensuring offensive military attacks by the Government of Sudan and regulated militia. 

Last week’s report mentioned that Lundin Petroleum noted a “massive military engagement in the area of Nhialdiu” during January and February 2002. This week, the prosecution presented a report by aid worker Frank Norbury who visited Nhialdiu in February 2002 to evacuate wounded civilians from the area. On the 28th of February 2002, he published an account of his experiences. Norbury stated that he was sent into Nhialdiu as the program manager of a Humanitarian Aid Grant through the United States Department of State. He planned to set up a medical center and thought that it would be a simple mission. However, while he was in Nhialdiu, the Government of Sudan launched an offensive military attack in the area, which changed his plans.

Norbury reported that on the 20th of February, Nhialdiu was attacked from the north by a reinforced armored brigade, helicopter gunships, and Antonov bomber planes. According to Norbury, 24 hours of non-stop aerial bombardment of the town preceded the attack.  Then Government of Sudan forces entered Nhialdiu and secured a defensive perimeter around the town. Civilians fled. Those who were unable to run were later killed by Government forces during clearing operations. Norbury reported that the Government had begun a wholesale destruction of the town, burning houses, churches, and schools. 

On the 24th of February, Norbury flew south of Nhialdiu to help evacuate civilians wounded in the attack. When he arrived, he asked how many wounded were present but found out that “there were none.” After finding out that the wounded were still about four hours away, he decided to stay and wait while his team flew back north. The next day he observed a wounded boy being carried into the camp, his face contorting in pain with every step. Norbury was told the boy had been wounded in an attack on the 15th of February. The others had died of their untreated wounds. He then witnessed the survivors arrive, exhausted and dehydrated, collapsing on the ground near the church. 

On the 26th of February, according to Norbury, wounded survivors arrived throughout the day. Some had walked or crawled, and some had to be carried. Norbury interviewed some of the civilians who had been victims of the attack. He reported: “They all had their own story but shared the same fear of the bombers and helicopter gunships. The bombers had bombed them non-stop for 24 hours before the attack on the 20th. If the Government of Sudan’s intent is to depopulate the area through terrorizing the population, they have been very successful […] The people in Nhialdiu have been forced out, having no time to gather belongings as they flee for their lives.” 

The prosecution then referenced meta-data showing that Christine Batruch, CSR-advisor for Lundin Petroleum, had saved a copy of Norbury’s report on the 17th of May 2002, to prove that the company had knowledge of Norbury’s description of the attack. 

The prosecution referenced another account of the attack on Nhialdiu, this one written by NGO employee Diane de Guzman and journalist Julie Flint based on their trip to Block 5A in February 2002. In the report, “Hiding Between the Streams”, de Guzman and Flint described their interaction with an eight-year-old boy they encountered. “Until mid-February 2002, he lived in a small village near Nhialdiu. In mid-February the forces of the Sudanese Government attacked his village.” Norbury’s account of the attack was reaffirmed in this report, which also described how the Government first approached with Antonov bombers, followed by helicopter gunships, soldiers on horseback, and ground troops. The boy described how he and his cousin, also about eight years old, were frightened by the bombers – but terrified by the gunships and horsemen. They, and everyone else in the village, ran for their lives. The two boys ran toward the grassy swamps at the edge of the village where they hoped to hide from the horsemen. 

The boy described how his cousin was right behind him as they sprinted for cover. The gunships were coming up behind them, sweeping over the village and shooting at anything that moved. The gunships flew low over them, firing as they went past. The boy managed to reach the swamp, but his cousin was shot in the head and killed. 

The prosecution then showed internal security reports from Sudan Ltd., which indicated that the military offensives continued in Nhialdiu during March and April 2002. The reports noted that Nhialdiu was briefly retaken by the rebels at the end of March but seized again by the Government on the 2nd of April. The internal reports also contained progress reports on the All-Weather Road to Nhialdiu, stating on the 12th of April that “[t]he road to Nhialdiu continues without incident and they have around 4 km to the end.” On the 17th of April, Sudan Ltd. personnel reported that “The road to Nhialdiu is now complete. Military operations in the area continue to proceed.” 

Internally Displaced People in Block 5A 

The prosecution also presented multiple reports detailing the alleged displacement of civilians in Block 5A.  In a report by Diane de Guzman and NGO employee Egbert Wesselink published on the 14th of May 2002, the causes and extent of the displacement were described. 

The report stated that “by mid-February 2002, the northern part of Block 5A had been depopulated by Government troops. The Government of Sudan claims that the purpose of its offensive was to rid the area of SPLA forces, but all available evidence shows that the civilian population was expressly targeted in an extended area along the road from the oil site at Rier and southwards.” According to the prosecution, the road referenced was the Lundin Petroleum All-Weather Road to Leer. The report estimated that since the beginning of 2002, 50 000 civilians had been forced to flee. It noted furthermore that the Government’s flight bans on flights carrying food and medical assistance jeopardized the lives of tens of thousands of people and contributed to the depopulation of oil-rich areas. 

De Guzman had talked to civilians in Block 5A who stated that: “They want our land so they can get the oil.” The report also contained further testimonies from displaced civilians who had fled Nhialdiu. “The horsemen chased the people to the river and shot at them as they struggled across, burdened with young children and the elderly. Even pregnant women were not spared.” 

De Guzman and Wesselink claimed that the Government’s use of helicopter gunships, followed by murderous raids, looting, and the mining of empty villages, was a tactic used to “effectively deter the displaced from returning to their villages. The resulting vast empty regions support the allegation that the Government of Sudan is knowingly and deliberately depopulating this oil-rich area in order to make it secure for the oil business.” 

The brutality of the attacks allegedly carried out by the Government and regulated militias was reinforced by another report presented by the prosecution, this one from Norwegian People’s Aid published on the 23rd of May 2002. The report described yet another attack by the Government in an area between the villages of Mayong and Mankien, located in Block 5A. It stated: “People were sleeping and therefore unaware. The Antonovs dropped 16 bombs in total. 11 people were killed on the spot and 35 seriously wounded. The situation is described as carnage with bodies lying everywhere, legs and arms blown off. Most of those wounded were young boys. Staff and journalists were totally shocked with what they saw.”

Another report presented by the prosecution and published on the 27th of June 2002 by the International Crisis Group also criticized the Government for denying access to humanitarian aid and invoking a blanket flight ban that prevented access to the region in April and May 2002. It explained: “During each of the last major famines in Sudan, the Government has denied access for humanitarian aid. The same tactics are being deployed again in the oilfield areas of Western Upper Nile [where Block 5A was situated, eds. remark] where large numbers of displaced people are caught in acute humanitarian crisis.”

Peace Talks between the Government of Sudan and SPLM/A

After describing the alleged widespread violence in Block 5A during the beginning of 2002, the prosecution stated that on the 20th of July 2002, the Government and the main rebel group SPLM/A agreed to start conducting peace talks. The prosecution held that this was mainly a result of the efforts of American diplomat John Danforth, who was sent to Sudan in September 2001 to try and broker a peace treaty. By October 5th, 2002, the Government of Sudan and SPLM/A had signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating that both parties agreed to refrain from targeting non-civilians and refrain from any offensive military actions until the negotiations were concluded. 

The prosecution alleged, however, that despite this agreement, the Government continued to conduct offensive military operations in Block 5A – especially in the area surrounding the All-Weather Road to Leer. 

“I am Worried About What is Happening in Our Concession” 

After presenting multiple international reports detailing the violence that occurred in Block 5A in 2002, the prosecution showed a Swiss documentary called “Les Petrodollars de l’humanitarie” which aired on the 12th of July 2002.  The documentary opened with Ian Lundin standing next to a group of school children in the Government-controlled village of Bentiu. The children were enrolled in a local school financed by Lundin Petroleum. Mr. Lundin stated: “For us it is very important to have a positive impact here. You have to create jobs. Even very small investments can create big opportunities.” 

Lundin Petroleum’s base camp was situated just a few kilometers from the school. In the documentary, Mr. Lundin could be seen standing in an almost empty lot. He explained: “This is our base camp. But as you can see, we have a lot of room right now. Usually it is filled with equipment, but right now it is empty. We are waiting to start up our operations again.” 

The documentary then showed the village of Bentiu, where the base camp and school were located. The voiceover explained: “Most of the population in Bentiu are internally displaced people. The fighting in the oil region has made thousands homeless. Bentiu has become a refugee camp.” An aid worker from the NGO Doctors Without Borders was interviewed and stated “[S]ince February there has been a large increase of malnourished refugees. The number of patients increases every day.” He then elaborated, saying: “It will not get better, because no food distribution is planned and 80 % of the population is completely reliant upon the UN Food Programme. It is getting worse.” 

The documentary then changed scenery, showing scenes from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where the Minister of Mining and Energy, Awad El Jazz, weighed in on the situation in southern Sudan. He stated: “In our opinion, this cannot be called a war. There is no connection between oil exploration and the conflict. […] If Mr. Lundin wants to continue his operations tomorrow, I can guarantee that it is possible. No-one will hurt him.”

The filmmakers then flew to Lel, a rebel-controlled village in Block 5A. Thousands of displaced civilians had gathered in the village to receive an aid package from the UN. Many had fled the attacks in Nhialdiu. A man who was interviewed described the situation: “Everyone was forced to leave everything they owned. Children and elderly people who could not run were taken by the Government forces. They were shut in their houses and burned to death. Here, we have nothing to eat. The cause of all the issues is oil. Everyone knows it. The Sudanese Government does not want any people here, they want the oil.” Many of those who had fled to Lel were injured. A young boy had a deep gunshot wound in his arm; one could see the bone.

Ian Lundin was then featured again, being interviewed at Lundin Petroleum’s offices in Geneva. He admitted that he was worried about what was happening in their concession, but also added: “It is very easy to point out the devil, to say who is evil and who is good. But the fact is everyone needs oil. The ones who complain about the oil companies should think about how they get to work or fly to their vacations.”

The documentary ended with the voiceover stating that a few days after the film team’s visit to Lel, the village was attacked by the Government and the refugees were forced to flee once more. The filmmakers were unable to get any information on what happened to the injured civilians who had sought refuge in the area. To conclude, they reaffirmed the prosecution’s claim that fighting had not ceased despite the peace agreements.

Offensive Military Operations Around the All-Weather Road to Leer

The prosecution then continued by presenting evidence to prove that the Government of Sudan and regulated militias during December 2002 – January 2003 also conducted illicit offensive military operations in the area surrounding the All-Weather Road to Leer. 

They began by presenting a report from the NGO IRIN from the 27th of January 2003, which stated that “intense fighting had taken place between ground troops from both sides, south of the garrison town of Leer.” As a result of the fighting, Doctors Without Borders personnel reportedly had been forced to evacuate five staff members working in surrounding villages. They concluded “Around the oil fields, government forces appeared to have the intention of clearing a road – by pushing back the SPLA and local people – from Mirmir to Ler, and perhaps also from Ler to Adok.”

The U.S. Department of State also released a statement regarding Leer on the 28th of January 2003. They stated that the attack and aerial bombardments on Leer “constitute a flagrant violation of the cessation of hostilities agreed to in the Memorandum of Understanding.”

On the 10th of February 2003, International Crisis Group published a report regarding Leer as well. They stated, “The offensive from late December until the beginning of February was an extension of the Government’s long-time strategy of depopulating oil-rich areas through indiscriminate attacks on civilians in order to clear the way for further development of infrastructure.” They also described how the fighting coincided with the construction of the All-Weather Road. “Troops reportedly captured Kouk on the 9th of January 2003, allowing the road to be built behind them as they advanced. The push toward Leer continued from the 20th to 22nd of January with attacks on the villages of Rubnor, Pantot, Tutnyang, Nyal and Kangoi, all of which were reportedly burned to the ground by the militia, with government forces in support. Leer itself was captured on the 26th of January and the road had reached that town by the early days of February.”

The final hours of this week’s proceedings were spent going over reports from the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), an international investigative mechanism established under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Sudan and the SPLA. In their reports, the CPMT described renewed fighting on the oil road on the 31st of December. Multiple villages in the area were reportedly attacked by Government-regulated militia, among them a village called Turnyan, which was situated directly on the road. The report stated: “The civilians had no warning of the attack. On woman was getting water when she heard the attack. She found her five-year-old daughter killed when she ran back. She said there was heavy artillery shelling, and the Government soldiers came in armored personnel carriers. There were many bodies in the village as she grabbed her infant son and ran under gunfire.”

On February 1st, the CPMT visited Leer to verify reports of a Government attack on the 26th of January. They collected testimonies from civilians who reported having heard fighting on the 26th of January. They stated that the Government chased civilians out of Leer by force. While in Leer, CPMT also learned of a more recent attack. On the 30th of January, Government forces had allegedly attacked a village to the east of the road. The prosecution quoted CPMT’s report: “The militia came upon some children playing. They shot an eight-year-old girl in the neck and abducted her. They also shot and killed an eight-year-old boy. They then ran into a pregnant woman, who they savagely beat in the stomach with a stick and left her bleeding profusely.” 

The CPMT concluded: “The humanitarian situation in the area is dire. The majority of villagers between Mirmir and Kaigai have lost their household belongings and 1,290 people were displaced due to the attack of the 26th of January. Many civilians are hiding without blankets, mosquito nets or cooking pots. Everyone worries that the road will bring further destruction to villages south of Leer.” 

The prosecution also noted that they would present internal security reports from Lundin Petroleum which confirm that fighting took place in the Leer area during January-February 2003. 

Addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding 

As mentioned previously, the Sudanese Government and the rebel group SPLM/A had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2002 with the aim of establishing a ceasefire until peace negotiations were concluded. However, the prosecution held that this Memorandum did not put an end to the fighting, as evidenced by the attacks described above. 

Having said that, the prosecution presented an addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding agreed upon on the 4th of February 2003. In this addendum, the Government of Sudan and SPLA agreed to “suspend all work on the Bentiu-Adok road until the final comprehensive peace agreement is signed.” The prosecution maintained that the road described in the addendum was the Lundin Petroleum All-Weather Road to Leer and that following this agreement, the fighting in Block 5A finally began to subside. 

Next Report 

Due to the fall break, the court has not scheduled any hearings during week 44 (October 30 – November 3); therefore, the upcoming report will be published at a later date than usual. According to the current schedule, the upcoming week (week 45, or the week starting November 6) will be the last week of the prosecution’s presentation, which will be summarized as usual. Following the conclusion of their presentation, counsel for the injured parties will have an opportunity to present their arguments, after which the defense will begin presenting their case.