Report 17: Part One of Alexandre Schneiter’s defense’s opening presentation

Gavel on a dark background

On the first day of this week’s hearing, Alexandre Schneiter´s defense began its presentation. After an introduction on various issues related to the indictment, the defense spent most of this week´s proceedings addressing allegations made in NGO reports and the Swedish Television programme 8 dagar (SVT 8 dagar programme), questioning its credibility. They also spent time explaining and responding to allegations of aerial bombardments carried out by the Sudanese military.

Seismic activity, Schneiter´s role, how operational decisions were made, and the difference between a guard force and military operations

The defense began its presentation by outlining the seismic activities carried out in Block 5A. The company’s technical department began its work in 1997, which included conducting a geophysical aeromagnetic survey. This was done to get a picture of the conditions in Block 5A and would form the basis for recommendations as to where new seismic lines would be drawn. According to the defense, aeromagnetic surveys were relevant because the prosecution in their presentation had referred to the results of such a survey. The defense explained that these surveys entailed the use of aircraft to obtain a more detailed picture of Block 5A´s subsurface conditions. To illustrate this, they showed an image, explaining that the aeromagnetic survey measured the depth of the bedrock – the bluer, the deeper, and the redder, the shallower. The defense stated that there would not be any oil if the bedrock was too shallow or too deep. They then displayed gravity maps of Block 5A from July 2000 and July 2001 that showed the MOK area as covered in blue, suggesting a low probability of finding oil there. 

The defense then presented the company’s planned seismic activities between the years 1998-2001, emphasising the distinction between planned and actual seismic operations. Plans may have needed to be changed due to unpredictable factors such as the weather and local factional conflicts. Therefore, planned seismic activities were, according to the defense, completely different from actual seismic activity and a reference to planned activities did not necessarily mean that they had in fact taken place. 

Turning to different maps used in the preliminary investigation, the defense once again dismissed the idea of determining seismic activity locations. They presented another image from the preliminary investigation which showed a so-called “Play Fairview.” The defense explained that this was an established term in the oil industry which identified areas with the highest oil probability, noting that MOK was located outside this area. By referring to a handout from a Technical Committee Meeting in October 2001, which displayed the likelihood of success in oil extraction, the defense claimed that there was only 15% chance of oil extraction in MOK due to the area being divided into small “leads.” According to the defense, all this meant that MOK was considered a less favorable area for oil extraction. They concluded that Sudan Ltd. never conducted seismic activities in MOK and over time it became less of a priority because of significant disadvantages, including the need for multiple drills, each with potential oil leakage.  

The defense then moved on to explain Alexandre Schneiter`s position in the company, emphasising the need to determine the extent of his authority as per the indictment ́s point 4. According to the indictment, Schneiter held decisive influence over Sudan Ltd.’s operations in Block 5A. The defense argued, however, that if Schneiter did not actually hold the position and the authority attributed to him, he could not have made the decisions outlined. They presented a 1998 organizational chart of the company illustrating the different positions within the Lundin companies, listing Schneiter as the Exploration Director until 2001. They then showed a document from February 2000 depicting Sudan Ltd.’s local organisation and which stated that Schneiter would function as Project Coordinator. However, after a significant September 2001 restructuring, Schneiter´s role diminished with the establishment of a local technical department in Khartoum. 

The defense pointed out that Schneiter´s position varied over time and was not static as presented in the indictment. In May 2002, Alexandre Schneiter became the Chief Operative Officer (COO), and according to the defense, the extent of his authority as COO increased gradually over time. However, they stressed that even though he may have had these roles, no single employee could independently make operational decisions, even within their own area of responsibility. They highlighted that Schneiter could not, for example, unilaterally decide on drilling locations, construction activities, or the initiation or cessation of activities, and that these decisions were made by the consortium as a whole.

The defense then described the decision-making process within Sudan Ltd. Referring to the Joint Operating Agreement from 1999, they pointed out that operational decisions involved a structured approach, including the need to first present work programme and budget proposals to the company’s shareholders. The same document stated that the final work programme and budget were to be approved by the operating committee. The defense asserted that it was the consortium that made the operational decisions and not any individual employee.

The defense also addressed the distinction between security forces and military operations, contending that it was crucial to clarify this point as there was a fundamental misunderstanding related to the issue.  They stressed that the prosecution had not differentiated between security and military operations. According to the defense, Sudan Ltd. had requested a security guard force provided by the Sudanese Government (GOS) in immediate connection with their operations, but had never requested military actions. Furthermore, they stated that Sudan Ltd. had no influence over Sudan´s military operations and that no government in any country would take instructions from foreigners, especially during a civil war. The defense further argued that both Sudan Ltd. and the civilian population were victims of the violence that took place. 

Conflicts, the indictment, the ownership of the oil, and an unlawful method of warfare

The defense then focused on the armed conflicts that took place during the indictment period. They contended that the conflict was not binary, with individuals not strictly aligning with either the GOS or with rebel groups. To illustrate the complexity of the allegiances, the defense highlighted internal conflicts within the Nuer groups. Although several armed conflicts broke out during the years 1997 to 2002, they emphasized that Sudan Ltd. had no influence over these conflicts or the sequence of events that led to them. According to the defense, the conflicts between the years 1999-2003 were primarily due to Peter Gadet´s defection from the GOS in September 1999. They further argued that the unrest in Block 5A in the spring of 2000 was due to Riek Machar leaving the GOS in January and that the later period of stability in the area in July 2000 was attributed to his return to the GOS and local peace agreements. The defense emphasised that Sudan Ltd. had no influence on these developments – let alone Alexandre Schneiter. 

The defense also responded to points made by the prosecution during their presentation regarding claims such as “the south was deprived of its oil.” The defense stressed that during the indictment period, Sudan was one country, not two, and had the rights to its own natural resources. They presented a map of Sudan and noted that not all oil sources were in what would become South Sudan. Another image from the website “Globalis” indicated that before South Sudan’s independence, that area accounted for three-quarters of the country’s oil although the infrastructure for the oil exploration was in Sudan. The defense noted that the revenues were distributed 50/50 between Sudan and southern Sudan. Suddenly, Judge Tomas Zander interrupted the defense and asked for the source of this information. The defense answered that they would return to the issue as the specific source was not noted. 

The defense then referred to point 7 of the indictment, which alleges that the method of warfare employed by the GOS involved unknown perpetrators from the Sudanese military and regime-led militia committing serious offences. The defense interpreted the charges as alleging that Schneiter was complicit in an “unlawful method of warfare” rather than in individual attacks. Referring to a document submitted by the prosecution, the defense contended that the prosecution itself stated that the indictment referred to the defendants’ complicity in the use of an unlawful method of warfare and not to complicity in a number of individual, independent attacks. Here, the defense emphasised that unlawful method of warfare, however, was not criminalised under either 22 Chapter Section 6 of the Swedish Penal Code (Brottsbalken) and The Act on criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (2014:406). Since the indictment did not encompass specific attacks, which were criminal acts punishable according to Swedish law, the defense argued the charged act did not constitute a crime under Swedish law. 

The legitimacy of NGO reporting

The defense stated that extensive documentation presented by the prosecution regarding so-called “basic facts” such as how many people lived in Block 5A and how much humanitarian aid was needed lacked credible data on population and settlements in Southern Sudan during the indictment period. They also pointed out that it was difficult to draw conclusions about conditions in Block 5A from secondary sources, like NGO reports, and that such reports were highly problematic for several reasons, including that they were the often products of systematically enforced cooperation with SPLA/SRRA. 

The defense then discussed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was an agreement that governed the activities of NGOs operating in South Sudan. The defense argued that the MOU was drafted by the SPLA and that they, through the MOU, controlled NGO work in southern Sudan – and therefore the information coming out of Block 5A. According to the defense, NGOs had to sign the MOU to operate in the area. The defense pointed out that controlling the flow of information was a classic strategy, drawing parallels with Russia´s expulsion of NGOs in recent years. The defense then showed a 2000 press release from “The New Humanitarian” which included a list of the NGOs that had refused to sign the MOU. They emphasised that this showed that the NGOs that signed the MOU worked under the SPLA and were thus prevented from being neutral and unbiased. The defense further argued that it was the SPLA that managed the different field trips and selected the locations that were later investigated in different NGO reports.

The defense stated that a large part of the investigative material derived from persons and organisations that supported the SPLA, and referred in particular to Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). They gave a long presentation on the organisation itself, its background, and documents that the prosecution had cited in which NPA was likely the primary source of information about various attacks. The defense highlighted that NPA had supported the SPLA in such a way that they could be regarded as being part of SPLA, even though they were outwardly an aid organisation. To support this argument, the defense cited the 2017 book “Lives at Stake” authored by Halle Jorn Hanssen, which indicated that NPA contributed to the SPLA in several ways, including the construction of airstrips that were partially used for military purposes and the establishment of field hospitals for the SPLA. All this, according to the defense, indicated that all information in war conflicts – including from NGOs – should be treated as potential war propaganda. The defense stated that the NPA had also assisted the SPLA in disseminating its war propaganda and that a key figure in this work was a man named Dan Eiffe. 

The defense described Dan Eiffe as a central figure since they had come across his name repeatedly in the investigation material and he seemed to be the primary source of information about many attacks mentioned in the material. They explained that Eiffe was a Catholic priest and later became a Liaison Officer within the NPA, responsible for several programs in Sudan. The defense further argued that in addition to being a Liaison Officer at the NPA, he was known as “Commander Dan” within the SPLA. The defense presented a 2011 article from Christian Science Monitor, in which Dan Eiffe described how he acquired weapons for the SPLA. Although Eiffe had outwardly been an aid worker for the NPA, the defense argued that in fact he had been a combatant equivalent to an officer in the SPLA and had also devised the strategy of “flying in” journalists to selected areas, a strategy that was widely used by the SPLA. Thus, information from either Eiffe or the NPA should be considered unreliable. 

The allegations in SVT´s 8 dagar programme 

The defense then continued to address the SVT 8 dagar programme that aired in late 1999 (read more about this here). They showed a clip from the programme in which SPLA leader John Garang was interviewed. In the interview, Garang claimed that the GOS and the oil companies wanted to “depopulate the whole area.”

The defense noted that a number of people were also interviewed about an attack on a village in Pariang County, north of Bentiu. The defense stated that these individuals were portrayed as local residents and that one person – Seven Wondu – was described as a “spokesperson.” The defense pointed out that Wondu, at that time, was actually a high-ranking person within the SPLA but appeared in the reportage as a “spokesperson” for the village in question. 

Another individual featured in the programme, Steven Mabok, who was described as a “local leader,” provided information on how the enemy attacked from the air with Antonov planes and then from the ground burning villages to obtain oil. According to the defense, Mabok was in fact an SPLA commissioner and his full name was Stephen Mabek Lang. The defense emphasised that the description of Lang as one of the local leaders – the impression given by the programme – was misleading and the concrete information about the attack in fact derived from the SPLA.

Other individuals interviewed included Dennis Bennett and Caroline Cox. Bennett was described as an oil analyst, but the defense contended that their research showed that no one by that name had been an oil analyst. Instead, they stated that Bennett was associated with the evangelical organisation “Servant’s Heart” and was also behind a website called “ViTrade.” The defense also noted that Bennett was cited as a source in Christian Aid´s report “The Scorched Earth” and described as a political analyst, but that this was also incorrect. As for Caroline Cox, the defense stated that she was portrayed as an aid worker who claimed that money from Western oil companies went to the GOS´s war effort. The defense noted that Cox belonged to the fundamentalist Christian organisation Christian Solidarity International but in 1997 broke away and formed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The defense further argued that viewers were not informed that the interviewees had links to the SPLA or to Christian organisations. 

The defense then proceeded to argue that the allegations made in the programme were inaccurate. They asserted that Dennis Bennett had for example claimed that oil revenues were used by the GOS to buy heavy weapons. The defense presented a World Bank document showing oil revenues as a percentage of Sudan’s GDP. They found it unlikely that the weapons purchased by the GOS could have been financed by oil revenues, as oil´s share of Sudan’s GDP in 1995-1997 was 0-0,2%. Dennis Bennett thus, according to the defense, provided incorrect information. 

The defense also stated that several of these sources were connected to each other. They asserted that Caroline Cox and Dennis Bennett travelled multiple times to southern Sudan together and together wrote the report “Visit to Eastern Upper Nile South Sudan” in 2002. The defense also stated that Steven Wondu, Caroline Cox, Dennis Bennett, and Damien Lewis travelled together on several occasions to southern Sudan between the years 1997-2000. They noted that the trips were organised by CSW, as well as by CSW together with the organisation Safe Harbor International and that Wondu participated in all of these trips, which meant that all the trips took place in the presence of the SPLA. 

The defense then continued to elucidate on the making of the programme. They explained that the film was originally made by Damien Lewis, a documentary filmmaker who visited Sudan on several occasions in 1998-1999 with Steven Wondu, Caroline Cox and others. The film was subsequently purchased by SVT. Although the reportage was from August 1999 and was originally called Oil Wars, the defense emphasised that it was unclear which material in the film was actually from 1999 since it contained film sequences that were also included in Lewis ́s 1998 film “Sudan: The Secret Story.” According to the defense, filming for Oil Wars/SVT 8 dagar only took place during a very short portion of the CSW trip in June 1999, which was organised with the help of Steven Wondu. The defense highlighted that the conclusions in SVT 8 dagar were thus based on testimonies from people who were on this trip and/or who belonged to the SPLA. The defense concluded that the SVT 8 dagar programme was pure propaganda and had a “negative” evidential value. 

The defense claimed that oil became a “propaganda tool“ and noted that prior to May 1999, there had been no reports linking the conflict to oil extraction. They further argued that the frequently-mentioned allegation that 6000 homes were burned along with 16 churches was widely disseminated after the start of the propaganda campaign and that it originated from the SPLA through the films SVT 8 dagar and Oil Wars. Following this, CSW issued its report and press release in June 1999, which, according to the defense, repeated almost verbatim the same information. The defense described how this information was later disseminated from report to report without any additional sources to confirm it, inter alia in the Harker report from 2000 and the Amnesty report from 2000. The defense also cited Special Rapporteur Leonardo Franco ́s report from October 1999 and claimed that Franco had “plagiarised the CSW press release” as the wording in Franco’s report was identical to the press release. The defense emphasised that the allegation about 6000 burned homes and 16 burned churches was planted by the SPLA and no independent or verifiable source confirming this information existed. Furthermore, they noted a temporal correlation between the publication of these details and the SPLA´s use of oil as a propaganda tool in May 1999. 

Fundamentalist Christian organisations allegedly behind NGO reports 

The defense also provided an account of individuals associated with fundamentalist Christian organisations which they argued were also connected with the SPLA. One such person identified by the defense was Derek Hammond, the director of the organisation International Relief and Development Agency and a source cited in “The Scorched Earth” report. The defense explained that Derek Hammond ran a missionary organisation called “Faith in Action” and had been described by the prosecution as an aid worker. The defense, however, asserted that their investigation had revealed that Derek Hammond was a Christian fundamentalist closely associated with his brother Peter Hammond´s right-wing Christian organisation, Frontline Fellowship (FF). Referring to different documents describing FF´s background and objectives, the defense noted that FF’s agenda was to “destroy” Islam and questioned whether individuals from this kind of organisation were appropriate sources to cite when describing a conflict between northern Muslim Sudan and southern Christian Sudan. 

The defense presented a clip from the film “Sudan: The Hidden Holocaust” which featured Derek Hammond on a November 1998 trip to Sudan. According to the defense, the film´s main thesis was that the GOS was waging Jihad against Sudan´s Christian population in the south. The defense contended that it was clear from the film and from his affiliations that Derek Hammond was a fundamentalist militant Christian who supported the SPLA. Therefore, the information he provided in the Christian Aid report, for example, was unreliable as it could be exaggerated or even fabricated given his affiliation with an organisation whose stated goal was to destroy Islam. Additionally, the defense asserted that Dennis Bennett and the organisations such as “Servant’s Heart” that he had worked for had links to the FF. All this, according to the defense, indicated that individuals with extreme and biased views had been freely cited as sources in the NGO reports in the investigation material. The defense emphasised the need for the court to assess all information presented with caution, as it could not be ruled out that these individuals provided false or greatly exaggerated information. 

The preliminary investigation material and the allegations on aerial bombardments using Antonov transport aircraft 

The defense then asserted that one had to be cautious regarding information from journalists, even when there is no identifiable connection to SPLA. To exemplify this, they referred to the reporting from the journalist Julie Flint, whom they described as a central information source in this criminal case. The defense claimed that despite being a journalist, Flint had been completely uncritical of information from the SPLA. They contended that she had participated in “reporting trips” organised by Christian fundamentalist groups that had taken sides in the conflict. The defense then showed a 2001 segment from a Channel 4 News report presented by Julie Flint, which claimed to show fighting from 2001 around the oil fields in southeast Sudan. The defense asserted that the film material in the segment was provided by the SPLA and that it was unclear exactly when the sequences were filmed. They pointed out a time stamp shown during the film sequence that indicated that the footage was not from 2001, as Flint claimed, but rather from 24 March 1990. The defense then showed two other clips from two different films – “The Sudanese soldiers fighting for money they’ll never see” and “Les Petrodollars de I`humanitaire ” – stating that the footage was the same material as used in the Channel 4 news report. The defense thus concluded that all material must be examined with caution regardless of the sender. 

As to the allegations that the Sudanese military conducted aerial bombardment using Antonov transport aircraft, the defense noted that the prosecution had cited John Ashworth´s reports on bombings in support of these claims. The defense referred to Ashworth´s October 2000 report “Bombings of Civilians in Sudan” which described a new strategy adopted by the GOS in which they bombed civilians using Antonov aircrafts, namely Antonov 26 (An-26) and Antonov 32 (An-32). They also used these aircraft to carry out flyovers without releasing any bombs, which caused significant psychological and economic consequences for the civilian population. The defense then showed a document from 2020, indicating that during the indictment period Sudan had at its disposal eight AN-12 aircraft, eight AN-24s and two AN-32s. The defense explained that their understanding of the prosecution´s allegations was that bombs were “rolled out” from the aircraft ́s cargo ramp and then dropped from the back of the plane onto civilians and civilian infrastructure below. According to the defense, the only Antonov model with a cargo ramp that would make this possible was the An-32, which the prosecution’s evidence also verified. 

The defense then examined different Antonov models and described the organisation Flight Safety Foundation as being of interest since they managed the Aviation Safety Network, a website that documented aviation accidents. The defense asserted that the Aviation Safety Network´s register showed that in the beginning of June 1999, two of Sudan´s An-24s and both An-32s had crashed. The defense also highlighted that not only the GOS had Antonovs, the models in question were also used by other entities such as civilian airlines and the SPLA. They further argued that the SPLA might have been behind some of the alleged bombings and that it was not possible to draw firm conclusions that the GOS had carried out the bombings in question simply because someone claimed to have seen a bomb being dropped from an Antonov. 

Next report

In the next report, we will cover the defense´s presentation and continue to report on the alleged aerial bombardments. We will also describe different actors relevant to the indictment period and the defense´s position on Sudan Ltd. and Alexandre Schneiter´s alleged involvement in events that are of importance to this criminal case.