Major setback for victims in the Lundin Oil trial
The largest trial in Swedish history is taking place in Stockholm, in which two former representatives of a Swedish oil company are charged with aiding and abetting war crimes. Last week, the Stockholm District Court decided that the plaintiffs in the Lundin Oil trial will not be able to have their damage claims tried as part of the criminal trial. This decision makes it considerably more difficult – in practice almost impossible – for them to obtain redress and exposes the systematic obstacles that victims of international crimes face in their struggle for justice.
“Separating the plaintiffs’ claims for damages makes it considerably more difficult for those affected by these alleged war crimes to obtain redress. In practice, it will be almost impossible as the South Sudanese plaintiffs now face the risk of having to pay for Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter’s legal costs, which are likely to be very large,” says Ebony Wade, Legal Adviser at Civil Rights Defenders.
The Lundin trial is the largest in Swedish history. Following a 10-year investigation, Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter were charged in 2021 with aiding and abetting war crimes in what is now South Sudan. It is the first time in history that 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.
Many victims and an extensive investigation
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.
As part of the preliminary investigation, approximately 270 interviews have been held, involving 150 individuals, and the preliminary investigation report is comprised of around 80,000 pages. There are 32 plaintiffs in the trial, but last week the Stockholm District Court announced that 27 of them no longer have the opportunity to have their damage claims tried within the framework of the criminal trial.
The Court’s decision means that the issue of compensation for the victims will be addressed in 27 separate civil cases. Should the plaintiffs lose those cases, they will be responsible for paying Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter’s legal costs.
Half a million Swedish kronor per civil case
Additionally, the victims must now provide a sort of security deposit covering the estimated legal costs of both the District Court and the Court of Appeal in order to have their cases tried at all. Under Swedish law, this requirement applies to individuals who do not have European citizenship. The defense has estimated that their costs will amount to half a million Swedish kronor per civil case.
“In general, there are already very few means by which victims of war crimes can obtain redress. The fact that the plaintiffs in the Lundin trial will have to put up half a million kronor each in order to even bring their case to court severely limits their right to a fair trial. One might ask whether it is reasonable for foreign victims of crime to have to provide hundreds of thousands of kronor in security just to have their case heard”, says Ebony Wade.
Read our full analysis on the Court’s decision to separate the claims here.
Follow the trial
Since the start of the Lundin Oil trial, Civil Rights Defenders are monitoring the trial on site in the courtroom at the Stockholm District Court. Follow the trail and read our reports here.
Event: Lundin Oil and the Path to Justice
On 8 December, Civil Rights Defenders, Global Idé, PAX and Swedwatch will organise a seminar on the opportunities for victims of international human rights violations to obtain redress. Witnesses and human rights activists from South Sudan will participate, as well as researchers and skilled legal professionals. Based on the Lundin trial, we examine the possibilities that exist today for victims of war crimes to obtain redress and what measures are needed for them to be able to exercise this right. Register for the event here.