Report 19: Part Three of Alexandre Schneiter´s opening presentation  

Gavel on a dark background

During this week´s proceedings, Alexandre Schneiter´s defense focused extensively on describing various internal security reports from the period October 2000 – July 2001, detailing the course of events in and around Block 5A. The defense also spent much time describing Lundin Oil AB´s response to the allegations following the increased international critique.  

Local peace agreements enabled operations in Block 5A 

The defense began the proceedings by stating that they would describe various internal security reports from the indictment period. They highlighted an October 2000 security report describing Ken Barker`s field trip to Block 5A as it demonstrated that local peace negotiations and peace agreements were pivotal for the company to be able to resume its oil operations in the area. According to the defense, these reports indicated that the stability in Block 5A and the company’s ability to operate were due to the local peace agreements forged in the autumn of 2000 with local Nuer leaders who ruled in Block 5A such as Peter Paar and James Leer.  

Although the exact details of these peace agreements remained unclear, the defense asserted that it was quite clear that they existed and that they allowed Sudan Ltd. to resume its operations. Here, the defense refuted the prosecution’s argument that what made it possible to operate in Block 5A was the company asking the Sudanese military to push Peter Gadet away from the area. Instead, they argued that Gadet`s encampment was located to the west of the area, rendering such a measure from the company unnecessary.   

The defense further argued that the security reports also illustrated that an important aspect of maintaining the peace agreements was Sudan Ltd.´s Community Development and Humanitarian Assistance Programme (CDHAP). Citing a late December 2000 security report, they contended that various representatives that Sudan Ltd. met with expressed the need for infrastructure development such as road construction to foster regional progress and thereby strengthen security. The defense claimed that this suggested that the peace agreements must be followed up with the CHDAP work so that local Nuer leaders could see that peace was worthwhile. Therefore, in order to sustain the peace agreements, development in the area, according to the defense, was essential. They then displayed a document which they claimed indicated that the all-weather road to Leer was something the local population desired. The defense asserted that Sudan Ltd. considered the road to be a CDHAP project vital for preserving peace.  

Internal security reports inconsistent with allegations of forced displacement and scorched earth tactics 

The defense claimed that the conflicts outlined in the company’s security reports were the “usual fighting” in the area, which was triggered by Peter Gadet´s departure from the Government of Sudan (GOS) in September 1999. They argued that the internal security reports from this time did not document offensive military attacks carried out by the GOS, but rather attacks initiated by Gadet (read more about this in our previous report). According to the defense, Sudan Ltd.´s security advisers were passive bystanders to a sequence of events over which neither they nor the company had any influence.  

Referring to an early November 2000 security report describing the progress on an all-weather road as good, the defense argued that such a report would not have been so positive had there been frequent Antonov bombings occurring 2-3 times per week. It was emphasised that under such circumstances, operations would have been suspended and personnel evacuated. However, at the end of November 2000, a change in the security situation in Block 5A occurred, prompting the suspensions of operations until conditions stabilised. Here, the defense, however, stressed that offensive military actions were never requested by Sudan Ltd. They also stated that it was obvious that the civilian population still resided in the area, illustrating the absence of forced displacement or the use of scorched earth tactics.  

The defense highlighted a recurring phrase in several internal security reports: “nothing to report.” They argued that this phrase held significant probative value, contending that if instances of forced displacement had occurred, they would have been documented in these reports. Furthermore, they presented a security report from early January 2001 which stated that despite claims of forced displacement, the completion of a road construction project in fact resulted in an influx of the local population toward the road, contrary to such allegations.  

The defense then presented a document describing Sudan Ltd.´s communication with the GOS, wherein the company sought the GOS`s comments regarding allegations of aerial bombardments and forced displacement. They explained that the GOS officially refuted the veracity of these allegations. The defense asserted that the preliminary investigation, however, solely relied on reports from one perspective and that representatives from the GOS had not been heard at all. They further argued that this also showed that Sudan Ltd. was not indifferent to the criticism but took it seriously and conducted thorough inquiries into the allegations.  

The defense stated that when one compared the internal security reports – comprising daily and weekly accounts of the operating environment – with the prosecution’s evidence concerning allegations of forced displacement and scorched earth tactics, discrepancies emerged. They underscored the inconsistency between the internal reporting and these allegations, positing that both could not be accurate. The defense further argued that the internal security reports were reliable, while other reports containing these allegations of human rights abuses were inaccurate.  

Additionally, the defense presented an email dated early February 2001, sent by Ian Lundin, that mandated adherence to a code of conduct for all employees, which also was written into all of the company’s employment contracts. According to the defense, this aspect assumed relevance in light of the prosecution´s assertion of Alexandre Schneiter´s alleged intent in the request for offensive military operations – a stance considered incompatible with his contractual obligations.  

Seismic activities in the Thar Jath area and the role of OEPA 

The defense explained that in early February 2001, the testing in Thar Jath had commenced, and this was the only season during which full operations could be conducted until the summer. According to the indictment, Schneiter allegedly promoted all the listed war crimes during this period in the area referred to as area 2 by the prosecution, which encompassed Nhialdiu. The defense pointed out that Sudan Ltd., however, did not plan to conduct seismic activities in the vicinity near the Nhialdiu/MOK area or over the MOK lead, but rather in the Thar Jath area.  

The defense presented internal security reports from February 2001, highlighting discussions about the composition of the guard force. They stated that these reports indicated that Sudan Ltd. always kept the Sudanese military at the local level well-informed about where the company’s operations would be carried out. Therefore, according to the defense, it would have been unnecessary for Sudan Ltd. to rely on an abstract flow of information through the JMC meetings and the Oil Exploration and Production Authority (OEPA) to convey information to the military. The defense also asserted that OEPA never participated in the discussions about the composition of the guard force. According to the defense, one of OEPA´s main tasks was to audit Sudan Ltd.́s accounts to review the company’s expenditures, not informing the military about work programmes. They also contended that Sudan Ltd.´s security advisers had direct contact with the Sudanese military in order to find out as much as possible about the security situation. According to the defense, the security reports, however, also indicated that Sudan Ltd. had no influence over the course of events.  

Lundin Oil AB´s response to the allegations  

The defense stated that in the beginning of March 2001, the daily security reports indicated a prevailing state of calm within Block 5A, with ongoing discussions concerning the composition of the guard force. They asserted that the reports on the construction of the dry weather road to Lehr did not mention forced displacement or scorched earth tactics, only the presence of a guard force. The defense then presented a press release from Lundin Oil AB, dated 5 March 2001 entitled “Lundin Strikes Oil in Sudan,” which detailed the discovery of an oil deposit in Thar Jath.  

According to the defense, on 8 March 2001 a significant event took place. They described that Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and board member of Lundin Oil AB at the time, was contacted by Swedish Television regarding an impending broadcast programme concerning allegations of forced displacement. Emphasising Bildt´s assertion during the programme that the claims warranted investigation, the defense contended that Sudan Ltd. exhibited a proactive stance towards uncovering the truth, rather than displaying indifference. Furthermore, they presented an email exchange between Ken Barker and Christine Batruch  wherein Barker said he had investigated the claims but found no substantiation for the allegations.  

After the company received confirmation that oil had been discovered in Thar Jath, Julie Flint, on 11 March 2001, published an article in The Observer, which had been cited by the prosecution. The article alleged that the Sudanese military carried out forced displacements and employed scorched earth tactics to enable oil operations. In the article, Flint also stated that Christian Aid´s “The scorched earth” report would be published and a television programme making similar claims would be broadcast the following day. The defense noted the timing of the article´s publication, claiming that it was a matter of a coordinated mass media campaign that had been delayed until Sudan Ltd, publicly announced the oil discovery. The defense argued that although the company took the allegations seriously and wanted to investigate them, it was evident that these accusations formed part of a coordinated campaign against Sudan Ltd. They pointed out that Sudan Ltd. investigated the claims several times, even if the company deemed the allegations to be inaccurate.  

The defense referred to the “Dying for oil” documentary that aired on 12 March 2001, and showed several sequences from it. The defense contended that the film falsely asserted that there was oil beneath the Nhialdiu area. According to the defense, there had never been any oil or oil exploration in that area. In this way, they argued, the documentary had transposed the oil operations from the Thar Jath area to Nhialdiu. The defense also claimed that the documentary exhibited biased reporting in favour of southern Sudan, as the filmmakers only visited rebel-controlled areas. They argued that the conflicts depicted in the documentary portrayed fighting stemming from Peter Gadet´s defection from the government side and that the documentary uncritically praised Gadet. Here, the defense asked the Court to compare the prosecution’s written evidence with the company’s internal reporting, emphasising the evident disparity between the two. Furthermore, they asserted that while the civilian population was a victim of the conflicts that took place, any displacement was not attributable to oil activities but rather to fleeing the violence, and that the people eventually returned to the area once the situation had stabilised.  

Referring to Christian Aid´s March 2001 “The scorched earth” report, the defense contended that the report contradicted the company’s internal reporting by, among other things, claiming that no villages remained along the all-weather road where the oil operations were conducted. They argued that what the report actually described were skirmishes that took place between Peter Gadet and other Nuer groups. The defense claimed that the report attempted to associate the conflicts with the all-weather road, which was erroneous. They further argued that the company’s internal reports directly contradicted claims of aerial bombardments, burning of villages, and killing of civilians conducted by the GOS. 

The defense described how the company responded to the claims in NGO reports and documentaries. Among other evidence, they presented a 15 March 2001 press release titled “Lundin Oil Looks into Allegations in Sudan,” arguing that this demonstrated that the company took the allegations seriously and was committed to re-investigating them. The defense pointed out that the company also welcomed visits to Block 5A for independent verification of the alleged human rights violations. Nevertheless, they asserted that Sudan Ltd.´s personnel stationed in Block 5A maintained that the allegations were inaccurate. 

The defense then presented the documentary by Bengt Nilsson, which the prosecution also had referred to (see more about this here). They showed a film sequence featuring an interview with Unity State governor John Dor wherein he described that when the GOS supplied groups with ammunition, it was to enable them to fight against Peter Gadet and the SPLA. Here, the defense argued that this showed that the GOS did not utilise a divide and rule tactic against Nuer groups as the prosecution alleged, since the GOS wanted every militia group to fight the SPLA, not each other. The defense emphasised that John Dor also described that no forced displacement took place along road construction sites. As the prosecution had done, the defense also displayed an interview with a German NGO employee which highlighted the positive impact of oil companies, such as the creation of employment opportunities.  

Referring to UN´s Special Rapporteur Gerhart Baum’s oral presentation before the UN Commission on Human Rights in late March 2001, the defense argued that he repeated the allegations of forced displacement found in other NGO reports without verifying their accuracy. They claimed that Baum´ continued to spread these claims without independently substantiating them. According to the defense, subsequent to Baum´s presentation, Lundin Oil AB conducted its own investigation which found no support for the allegations. They also underscored the importance of scrutinising the substance of information rather than relying solely on the source. In this context, the defense argued that NGOs like Amnesty International did not consistently provide accurate assessments, and in the present case, their assertions were evidently untrue. They further stressed that in those areas where NGO reports could be verified – allegations of forced displacement and scorched earth tactics – the information had proved to be grossly inaccurate. For areas where verification was not possible, such as allegations of aerial bombardments, the defense urged the Court to be cautious in making its assessment.  

The TCM/OCM meeting on 10 July 2001 

Prior to delving into the JMC meeting, which covers point 9f of the indictment, they elucidated the proceedings of the Technical Committee Meeting (TCM) and Operating Committee Meeting (OCM) meeting held on 10 July 2001. They presented the minutes of the TCM meeting and reviewed the attendance list which showed that Alexandre Schneiter and Ken Barker were present at the meeting. The defense emphasised that no military issues were discussed at these meetings, only purely technical questions. According to the defense, the minutes of the meeting also illustrated the core of Alexandre Schneiter´s responsibilities, which predominantly revolved around geophysical issues rather than security-related concerns.  

The defense then showed PowerPoint Presentation slides from the OCM meeting, noting the absence of any reference to military operations during this meeting as well. They explained that in describing the security status, Ken Barker had emphasised the significance of the all-weather road and attributed the maintenance of peace in Block 5A to peace negotiations in Khartoum. The defense then showed an incident list covering the period October 2001 to July 2003, highlighting that conflicts were primarily triggered by Peter Gadet, and that there were no reports of war crimes, indiscriminate bombardments, or offensive military operations carried out by the GOS. According to the defense, the sole incident involving the Sudanese military was a soldier burning a hut due to a large snake inside. 

The JMC meeting on 11 July 2001 – Point 9f of the indictment 

Point 9f of the indictment asserts that Alexandre Schneiter, at a JMC meeting on 11 July 2002, demanded that the GOS create conditions for the company’s operations in the Nhialdiu area/area of operations MOK. This was done by informing representatives of the GOS, together with subordinate representatives of the Lundin companies, of planned seismic activities in 2002 in the area for which Alexandre Schneiter was responsible. 

The defense refuted these claims, highlighting that there was no such thing as the Nhialdiu area/area of operations MOK. They asserted that it was a term invented by the prosecution and that neither the meeting minutes nor the PowerPoint Presentation referenced that area. The defense also emphasised that neither the meeting minutes nor the PowerPoint Presentation showed that Alexandre Schneiter had informed representatives of planned seismic activities in 2002 in the area. On the contrary, it had been stated that seismic activities would be conducted elsewhere. 

The defense stated that the prosecution´s conclusion – that the presentation of the PowerPoint Presentation slides contained a demand for the GOS to create conditions for Sudan Ltd.´s operations – was inaccurate. They further argued that the company’s informing the GOS about planned activities did not constitute a demand, but rather was part of the company’s obligation under the EPSA agreement, and part of Schneiter´s responsibilities was to provide that kind of information. Thus, according to the defense, this claim was a conclusion drawn by the prosecution without supporting evidence. The defense contended that there was no causal link between Schneiter´s actions, the JMC meeting, and alleged principal offences in or near Block 5A. Here, the defense largely restated its arguments regarding point 9e (see our previous report here). However, they stressed that what Alexandre Schneiter did at the JMC meeting on 11 July 2001 was clearly of no significance for subsequent events.  

As to their stance that the conflict was driven by other factors unrelated to the oil exploration, the defense contended that a significant event occurred on 8 January 2002. They explained that this was due to Riek Machar and John Garang joining forces, resulting in unclear shifts in loyalty among Nuer leaders and local peace agreements seemed to be no longer valid. This, the defense argued, led to conflicts, which were very difficult to assess. The defense´s position was that it was completely impossible for a Swedish court to examine “who was in league with whom and who fought about what on which side.” One thing, however, was evident and that was that Sudan Ltd. had nothing to do with these events. 

The defense also explained their position on the lack of causality, stating that the seismic operations were cancelled in December 2001, and in late January 2002 all remaining operations were cancelled due to the deteriorating security situation. Instead, Sudan Ltd. demanded peace through peaceful means which were communicated to representatives of the GOS. The defense concluded that Alexandre Schneiter had never informed representatives of the GOS of planned seismic activities, no demands were made, and Alexandre Schneiter did not have the intent to promote war crimes.  

Next report 

In the next report, we will continue to cover the defense´s presentation and, among other things, detail Sudan Ltd.´s organisation and the company´s continued operations in Block 5A. We will also describe Alexandre Schneiter´s position on point 9g and h of the indictment.