Report 18: Part Two of Alexandre Schneiter’s defense’s opening presentation

Gavel on a dark background

During this week´s proceedings, the defense continued to address the alleged aerial bombardments using Antonov transport aircraft (see our previous report), and named other actors who also had Antonovs at their disposal, questioning the origin of the claims that the Sudanese military was solely responsible. The defense then spent most of this week describing the sequence of events in and around Block 5A during the period from 1994 to October 2000. 

The use of Antonov aircraft by other actors and the origin of the allegation about aerial bombardments

The defense started the week by expanding on their arguments concerning the allegations of aerial bombardments (read more about this here). They argued that other actors besides the Sudanese military had access to Antonov Aircrafts. One such actor reportedly was Frank Norbury, affiliated with the organisation ICI Foundation and author of the 2002 report “Playing God in Hell.” To support this argument, the defense referred to a 2002 article in The Washington Times, describing Frank Norbury`s use of a “Russian-made transport plane” facilitated by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). Citing a 1999 article in National Post, the defense contended that it illustrated that the organisation Safe Harbor International also had Antonov 32s at its disposal. Therefore, the information that only the Government of Sudan (GOS) had access to Antonovs was, according to the defense, inaccurate. 

The defense also reviewed the origin of these allegations. They claimed that the information mainly came from John Ashworth, a Catholic priest who at one time led the organisation Church Ecumenical Action in Sudan (CEAS). The defense further argued that CEAS was funded by the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), a network of different churches in southern Sudan that allegedly worked closely with the SPLA.

The defense stated that at the time of John Ashworth´s reports of bombings he was, according to the prosecution, associated with the organisation Sudan Focal Point. The defense questioned the reliability of Ashworth´s information, citing Sudan Focal Point´s affiliations with the NSCC, who had direct ties to the SPLA. Referring to emails from Dan Eiffe (read more about this here) to John Ashworth describing different bombings, then comparing those emails to Ashworth´s 2002 report “The Bombing of Rier,” the defense emphasised that Dan Eiffe was the original informant and that Ashworth was only reproducing what Eiffe had reported to him.

The defense also addressed the claim that indiscriminate bombings were carried out by the Sudanese air force. They contended that the sources of this allegation, in particular the NPA, were not reliable. The defense also questioned the accuracy of reported bombings. They concluded that these reports contained significant inaccuracies, such as the number of alleged bombings, lacked clarity, and did not provide firm conclusions. 

The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, US involvement in the conflict, and the work of UN Special Rapporteurs 

As to the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), the defense asserted that individuals affiliated with the NPA played a significant role in the creation of the CPMT. They claimed that Roger Winter was a central link between the NPA and U.S. authorities and was the individual who enabled the NPA´s funding and thus operations in Sudan. The defense contended that Winter, functioning essentially as the NPA´s U.S. lobbyist, was in southern Sudan with the NPA on several occasions. They referred to a 2012 article in Reuters detailing Roger Winter´s membership in “The Council” which the defense described as a tight-knit group of American lobbyists. According to the defense, Winter/The Council supported the SPLA and wielded substantial influence on U.S. foreign policy. They also underscored that Winter was an advisor to U.S. Special Envoy John Danforth, who subsequently initiated the CPMT. The defense argued that individuals pivotal in shaping U.S. foreign policy concerning Sudan and establishing the CPMT supported the SPLA and actively worked towards the liberation of southern Sudan. They stressed that the U.S. provided economic and military support to the SPLA by, among other things, funding the ICI Foundation.

The defense underscored that, aside from CPMT personnel being subordinate to the US Department of State and the U.S. military, the CPMT staff consisted entirely of American defense and government services contractor Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE) staff. Here, they emphasised that the CPMT was run entirely by PAE, which had close connections with the US Department of Defense and the CIA. The defense also asserted that CPMT personnel were not independent as they were U.S. government contractors via the PAE. They referred to the 2009 book “Genocide: Truth, Memory, and Representation” in which the author, a former PAE employee, Sharon Hutchinson, described how CPMT reports were edited by US military personnel. Consequently, they highlighted that US military personnel had the final say in determining what to include in the reports, rendering the CPMT reports unreliable.

The defense proceeded to address the work of the UN Special Rapporteur, stating that the Special Rapporteurs represented themselves rather than the UN’s views, and were thus considered to be independent. They emphasised that the conclusions drawn in the reports invoked in this case reflected the opinions of Special Rapporteurs Gaspar Biro, Leonardo Franco, and Gerhart Baum and not the official UN position.

The defense then cited the publication “Appraising UN Justice-Related Fact-Finding Missions” from 2001, which criticised the Special Rapporteurs for lacking standardised working methods and for their heavy reliance on reporting from NGOs and media, making it challenging to assess the reports’ validity. The defense argued that this indicated that Special Rapporteurs at best used an anecdotal approach. According to the defense, as there was no binding policy regulating the work of Special Rapporteurs, it was not possible to assess whether the reports were based on credible information. They concluded that Special Rapporteurs´ reports thus are only as valuable as their underlying sources. 

The European Coalition on Oil in Sudan and its role in the preliminary investigation 

The defense briefly discussed the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS), stating that the prosecution had referred to ECOS reports in their presentation. They explained that ECOS was a coalition of several European NGOs including Christian Aid, NPA, and Sudan Focal Point. ECOS published the report “Depopulating Sudan’s Oil Regions” in May 2002 and initiated the project “Unpaid Debt” in 2006. Referring to “ECOS Situation Report 8 February 2009,” the defense noted that in 2009, ECOS had contacted the Swedish section of Advocates Without Borders, seeking assistance with filing a criminal report.

The defense then presented a report from the Swedish police from May 2010, describing how ECOS requested that the prosecutor’s office open an investigation into crimes against international law based on their “Unpaid Debt” report. They explained that the prosecution initiated a preliminary investigation in late June 2010, with the report playing a significant role in this decision. The defense argued that the initial focus during the preliminary investigation was establishing a link between the 65 attacks detailed in the “Unpaid Debt” report and Sudan Ltd.´s operations. They noted that following the deterioration of the security situation in southern Sudan at the end of 2013, the preliminary investigation shifted focus to finding victims and witnesses located outside of southern Sudan. The defense presented several emails from ECOS representatives to Swedish authorities that showed how they informed the authorities about witnesses outside of southern Sudan that could be of interest for the investigation and expressed their willingness to locate more potential witnesses. According to the defense, this demonstrated that ECOS, an organisation founded by individuals and organisations allegedly with close ties to the SPLA, provided the investigation with plaintiffs and witnesses.

The start of oil operations in Sudan and Alexandre Schneiter´s role in Sudan Ltd. 

The defense referred to an adjustment made in August 1995 to Schneiter´s 1994 employment agreement, describing how he was promoted to Vice President for Exploration. The defense argued that this position entailed Schneiter being responsible for individuals working in geophysics and geology, and not that he held any decisive influence over Sudan Ltd.´s operations, which they said seemed to be the prosecution´s interpretation of his role in the company. 

The defense then presented the 1997 EPSA agreement between Sudan and Sudan Ltd. Here, they highlighted several contractual definitions and asserted that according to the agreement, the “manager” had decision-making authority for Sudan Ltd.´s operations. On the same day EPSA was signed, Sudan Ltd. and Exploration Management Services Ltd. entered into a service agreement. According to the defense, Schneiter performed his work tasks under this agreement. His position was described as a desk job focused on technical aspects of oil exploration. 

The defense explained that the company conducted a scouting trip in March 1997 in order to examine the terrain in Block 5A. Its conclusion was that there was no indication that the civilian population would pose any issues to the company’s operations. A 1997 internal security report was also cited, describing the “risk rating for Sudan” and highlighting security risks due to the ongoing civil war in the country. However, according to the defense, the political stability in southern Sudan varied greatly. Referring to an April 1997 Memorandum from a Swedish delegation, which had visited Sudan to assess the situation, the defense contended that the memorandum included positive remarks about Sudan and emphasised the need for information from “both sides.” They also described a seismic scouting trip that took place in May 1997, which marked Schneiter’s first visit to the concession area. The defense pointed out that the subsequent report from this trip showed no indication that the civilian population would pose a problem for Sudan Ltd.´s operations. 

The defence then referred to a 12 May 1997 JMC meeting, noting that both Keith Hill, who was the General Manager, and Alexandre Schneiter participated in the meeting. They further argued that documents presented at that meeting showed that there was a huge distinction between the seismic operations and the drilling operations, with Schneiter overseeing the former. They then presented the 1998 work programme and budget, stating that it did not mention where seismic activities would be carried out. 

The defense moved on to the Operating Committee Meeting (OCM meeting) held in October 1997, emphasising the company’s perspective on the MOK area at that time. Here, they asserted that Sudan Ltd.´s work programmes were not fixed, but rather allowed for amendments as needed. They then referred to a November 1997 document entitled “Technical Review Session” revealing that the MOK area was not as large as it was initially thought to be. In February 1998, the company conducted a geology analysis in Block 5A. The defense highlighted that the findings of this analysis led to the MOK area going from being an area of interest to an area of no interest. To support this argument, the defense cited a February 1998 “IPC Trip Summary”, describing a visit to Block 5A by Keith Hill and Dr Alam Baggi, among others, to examine potential drilling locations and noted that they did not, however, visit the MOK area. 

In a report from July 1998, covering 2D seismic survey in Block 5A, the defense contended that there was no indication that the area would be depopulated to enable oil exploration. They also pointed out that Sudan Ltd. took precautions in Block 5A, as the report mentioned that they had “showed respect towards the villagers and their houses in the area […].”

The defense recalled that the prosecution had referred to a September 1998 fax from Ian Lundin, claiming that Alexandre Schneiter had seen the fax and put his initials on it. By comparing the fax to another document with Schneiter’s initials, they noted that the initials in the fax did not match Schneiter´s. Suddenly, Judge Tomas Zander interrupted the defense, asking if their position was that it was not Schneiter´s signature on the fax to which the defense answered in the affirmative. 

The defense also explained that in April 1999, the Joint Operating Agreement, which regulated the relationship between Sudan Ltd. and its shareholders, was formally put in place. They highlighted the obligation of both parties to comply with the EPSA agreement. Citing a May 1999 report on seismic operations, which included a daily diary of events that occurred between February and May 1999, the defense stated that it showed discussions about a guard force and about starting operations only after an authorised guard force was in place.  The defense noted that in late spring through autumn 1999, Schneiter was seriously ill and therefore did not receive security reports or the revised work programme and budget for 2000. They then referred to Christine Batruch´s 1999 report (read more about this here) investigating the allegations made by various NGOs about human rights violations, which found no support for those claims. Here, the defense argued that Schneiter received information in 2000 contradicting the allegations of human rights abuses. Finally, the defense stressed that in early March 2000, Ken Barker decided to cease all operations in light of the ongoing security situation, proving that only Ken Barker had such authority, not Alexandre Schneiter. 

The reasons behind the conflicts in Block 5A

The defense explained that three crucial events vitally changed the situation around Block 5A. The first event referred to was Peter Gadet´s defection in September 1999. They claimed that this caused conflicts that lasted throughout the indictment period. The second event of importance, according to the defense, was Riek Machar´s departure from the GOS early 2000. They argued that both Gadet and Machar’s defections caused instability in Block 5A, leading to the cancellation of the company’s entire operations season in April 2000. The defense stressed that Sudan Ltd. had no influence over these events. The third event was described as the “whispering campaign.” Here, the defense referred to the SVT 8 dagar programme (read more about this here), noting that the programme was filmed in a location far from Block 5A. They also asserted that John Garang´s visit to Sweden in September 1999 during the programme´s broadcast was not coincidental but part of a propaganda campaign against Western companies operating in oil regions. The defense highlighted that Alexandre Schneiter had no influence in these events.

The defense contested the credibility of Amnesty´s May 2000 report “Sudan – the human price of oil,” claiming that it was based on a meeting with Peter Gadet in October 1999 and that the allegations of forced displacement made by John Garang in the report were unverified. The defense referred to Christine Batruch´s 2000 report in which she examined the allegations of forced displacement, highlighting that it addressed the three aforementioned key events. They pointed out that one of the report’s conclusions was that the accusations must be confronted, indicating that Sudan Ltd. was not indifferent to them but rather took steps to investigate such allegations. Here, the defense emphasised that this conclusion was of importance in terms of the intent of all parties involved. 

The defense recalled that the prosecution had referred to an incident list from July 2000, which included a diary of security related incidents. They explained that it was created by Sudan Ltd.´s security advisor R.J Deery for shareholder presentations. The defense displayed the incident list, which covered the years 1998-2000, and noted the absence of mentions of forced displacement or scorched earth tactics. 

The defense then moved on to the TCM/OCM meeting on 25 July 2000, explaining the sequence of events by referring to the minutes and PowerPoint Presentation slides from the meeting. They described that Schneiter had presented the seismic operations, noting that they were not carried out due to the security situation. The defense highlighted that it was clear from the minutes that security matters fell under Tim Sarney´s purview, not Alexandre Schneiter´s. They argued that at the OCM meeting, the company decided not to conduct seismic surveys until a “positive security assessment” was made. Here, the defense also pointed out that the incident list was shown to the shareholders as they wanted to explain why the work had been delayed. 

“Sudan Ltd. was a victim of the conflicts”

The defense referred to an incident report from August 2000 regarding Nhialdiu, asserting that Sudan Ltd. had no influence over the conflict but rather became victims of it, attributing the situation to Peter Gadet´s defection in September 1999. 

Shifting focus, they presented an email from Brent Dodd to Tim Sarney in August 2000, discussing the inspection of an all-weather road. The defense argued that the email indicated that the road construction was hindered due to the rainy season, not to conflict-related issues. They emphasised that these documents had a high evidential value, suggesting that forced displacement and scorched earth tactics would have appeared in internal reports if they had actually occurred. 

Citing an August 2000 internal security report, the defense contended that it showed that civilians were fleeing to regime-controlled areas and that Sudan Ltd. helped the refugees by providing humanitarian aid such as tents and blankets. They stated that the company’s internal security reports were essential as they illustrated that the conflict was caused by Gadet´s defection, not by Sudan Ltd.´s operations. They also asserted that civilians received humanitarian aid from the GOS, which was difficult to reconcile with the claims that the GOS was carrying forced displacement and scorched earth tactics. Referring to a security report from September 2000, the defense emphasised that if the company’s security advisors had witnessed forced displacement, it would have been mentioned in the security reports. 

The defense also addressed an Emergency Plan Document from 25 September 2000, which the prosecution had referred to in its presentation. The document stated that in case of emergency, Schneiter was the second person in line to be contacted. They asserted that this document should be compared to the later Emergency Evaluation Procedures document where Schneiter was not included at all since by then he was no longer the project coordinator. Here, the defense claimed that the prosecution described Alexandre Schneiter´s position statically, without taking into account the fact that his position changed over time. The defense concluded that the fact that Schneiter was the contact person during evacuation procedures had a low evidentiary value when it came to the issue of aiding and abetting war crimes. 

The JMC meeting on 4 October 2000 – point 9e of the indictment 

Point 9e of the indictment asserts that Alexandre Schneiter, at a JMC meeting on 4 October 2000, demanded that Sudan ensure that the security situation in Block 5A was improved for the upcoming year. It is further alleged that he, together with subordinate representatives of the Lundin companies, identified the rebel forces of SPLA ally Peter Gadet as a threat to the company’s operations and encouraged the Sudanese military´s alliance with militia forces against Gadet. Furthermore, during the meeting Schneiter expressed appreciation on behalf of the company to the GOS for the manner in which the GOS created the conditions for Sudan Ltd. ́s operations in Block 5A. 

The defense refuted these claims, stating that the terms used in this particular charge could not be found in the minutes of the meeting or the PowerPoint Presentation slides, which according to them formed the basis of the indictment. Referring to the PowerPoint Presentation slides from the meeting, they emphasised the difference between demanding security and requiring a positive security assessment for operations to resume, the latter being what was discussed during the meeting and then decided on by the consortium. The defense argued that this part of the indictment should be dismissed on the grounds that Alexandre Schneiter had not said what the prosecution had alleged. 

The defense also argued that Alexandre Schneiter did not identify Peter Gadet as a threat to the company’s operations, nor did he encourage the Sudanese military´s alliance with militia forces against Peter Gadet. Once again, they pointed out that the terms used in this part of the charge could not be found either in the minutes of the meeting or the PowerPoint presentation slides.

As to Schneiter expressing appreciation on behalf of the company to the GOS, the defense asserted that this also was inaccurate. They stressed that the objective meaning of Schneiter’s statement was to apologise for what the OEPA perceived as an insult, not to encourage war and war crimes. The defense claimed that both Alexandre Schneiter and Tim Sarney remembered this and that Sarney would confirm this under oath during his testimony.  

The defense further argued that there was no causal link between Schneiter´s actions, the JMC meeting, and alleged principal offences committed in or near Block 5A. This objection comprised four parts. Firstly, they stated the alleged message did not reach and influence the supposed perpetrators. Here, the defense contended that Sudan was represented by OEPA at the JMC meeting and that the participants were not military personnel. They questioned the prosecution’s claim that information was passed on from the meeting to the alleged perpetrators, asserting that the prosecution had not specified how this would have been done. Secondly, the defense argued that the conflicts had other causes, in particular Peter Gadet´s defection from the GOS in September 1999. Thirdly, they asserted that Sudan Ltd.´s operations were negligible, referencing a 2020 report indicating minimal drilling activity during the period 1997 to 2003 and no oil or gas production. Fourthly, the defense claimed that there was no causality as all of the company’s operations had been suspended, and a resumption required peace through peaceful means. To prove this, the defense presented several letters from Ian Lundin to members of the GOS, describing Sudan Ltd. wanting peace through peaceful means, as this was the condition posed for resuming operations. The defense also disputed that Schneiter intentionally encouraged warfare with elements of war crimes. Instead, according to the defense, his intention was for the violence to cease. 

After the defense finished its presentation for the week, procedural matters, including the interpreter issue and the possibility of the defendants participating in the upcoming plaintiffs’ hearings via video link, were discussed. As to the question of interpreters, it was clear that the defense teams found this to be a highly problematic issue as one of the defense teams reportedly was seeking to disqualify one of the Nuer interpreters. After a lot of back and forth, mainly between Judge Tomas Zander and Alexandre Schneiter´s defense team, Judge Zander stated that he would arrange a meeting with the Nuer interpreters and then rule on the issue. Judge Zander then raised the issue of remote attendance, which Ian Ludin´s defense team had requested last autumn. The prosecution’s position was that it would be fine for the defendents to attend via video link, but that they should be physically present in a courtroom if participating online, not sitting at home. Ian Lundin´s defense asked why the prosecution thought so, to which the prosecution replied: “Because it is a trial,” and stated, “The defendants are defendants and must attend court and not sit at home.”

Next report 

In the next report, we will continue to cover the defense´s presentation and, among other things, detail their description of various internal security reports. We will further report on the defense´s view of the alleged forced displacement and scorched earth tactics used in Block 5A and its position on point 9f of the indictment.