Report 24: The first plaintiff takes the stand

After nearly ten months of PowerPoint presentations from the various parties involved in the historic Lundin Oil trial, the time finally came for the plaintiffs to be heard in court – to share their stories and recount the atrocities they had endured in southern Sudan between 1997-2003. Pastor James Kuong Ninrew Dong was the first plaintiff to take the stand. This examination lasted for three and a half days during which the prosecution, the plaintiff’s counsel, and the respective defense teams had an opportunity to question him.

On the first day of the hearing, the atmosphere was charged with intensity and a sense of anticipation. Everyone was eager to finally meet one of the plaintiffs and to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of the people living in and around Block 5A, particularly regarding the attacks that targeted and displaced civilians. For the first time in many months, the media flocked to Stockholm District Court to catch a glimpse of the witness and attempt to interview him. In addition to journalists from various media outlets and representatives from civil society organisations, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Dr. Beth van Schaack, was present in the courtroom to observe the trial and hear James’s testimony.

The prosecution opened the hearing by explaining that their questions would focus on the period from 1997 to 2003. They began by inquiring about James’s background, including his personal information and education. Subsequently, the prosecution’s focus turned to the situation in the area where he resided during the relevant period, particularly the attacks in Western Upper Nile that he had personally experienced. Once the prosecution had completed their questioning, counsel for the plaintiffs asked a few clarifying questions before the respective defense teams had the opportunity to cross-examine the witness. The hearing concluded with the prosecution asking follow-up questions to clarify uncertainties that had arisen during James’s testimony.

Personal Background of Plaintiff 1

James Kuong Ninrew Dong was born on 1 January 1960, in Leer, Adok, in what is now known as Leer County, in Unity State, Sudan. He belongs to the Nuer tribe, the second-largest tribe in southern Sudan – more specifically from the Dok community. He clarified that he was not sure of his exact date of birth as it is common in Sudan to be assigned as a birthdate the date Sudan gained independence – the 1st of January.

James spent his childhood in Leer, where his parents farmed and herded cattle. He began his primary school education in Leer at the age of 10, continued to secondary school in Bentiu, and completed his senior secondary education in Koch and Bar in northern Sudan. After high school, he volunteered as a teacher at his primary school for three years before joining a survey company contracted to Chevron until 1984. However, the outbreak of war led him to relocate to Malakal in 1986. In 1988, he received a scholarship from the church to study theology in Egypt, where he obtained his degree in 1992.

After being ordained as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in 1995, James was based in Koch from March 1995, where he served as the parish priest. His responsibilities included conducting services, visiting and praying with his congregants, training, and overseeing church activities. He was actively involved in managing church-related activities across several areas, ensuring pastoral care and support for the congregations.

Initially, James moved to Koch alone, but his wife and children would visit him. After the SPLA and the Arab soldiers left the area in 1994, daily life in Koch was stable with people moving about their business as normal until 1998, when the construction of a road and increased military activity in the area led to instability and displacement. The local economy in Koch and the wider Unity State was primarily based on farming and cattle herding, with seasonal variations in activities. During the dry season, cattle herding and fishing were common, and the church played a significant role in community engagement during this period. Families were partially mobile, with some members moving for cattle herding while others stayed to maintain farms.

Currently, James resides in Juba and serves as the head of the Presbyterian Church in Southern Sudan. He has seven children and three grandchildren.

Life in Koch prior to 1998

Through his testimony, James Kuong Ninrew Dong provided detailed insights into what life was like in Koch and Unity State. He explained that the primary activities in the area were farming and cattle herding, with 90% of the population engaged in these activities. Farming was seasonal, from June to October, with harvests taking place around October and November. The dry season, from the end of October to May, saw cattle herders moving to greener pastures and water sources, while some people went to the River Nile for fishing. During this period, the population in Koch decreased as people migrated for these activities. Those who stayed behind were engaged in church activities and conferences.

The responsibility for these activities was generally divided, with men primarily moving with the cattle while women and some family members remained to take care of the farms and household. Families often left behind milk cows or sick cattle and divided their time between herding and farming. James confirmed that his family also owned cattle and a farm, emphasizing that owning cattle was essential for financial stability and farming. Without cattle, one was considered to be very poor.

Regarding freedom of movement, James stated that movement was restricted near Bentiu, a government-controlled area, due to suspicions of gathering intelligence for rebels. Both government and SPLA-controlled areas imposed similar restrictions, with individuals facing pressure and accusations when moving between areas. James also addressed conflicts within Unity State, stating that typical conflicts involved cattle theft, property theft, and personal disputes, which were usually resolved by local chiefs and police. These conflicts did not lead to large-scale displacement or forced relocation of people.

Furthermore, the plaintiff provided insights into the administration and governance of Koch area during his testimony. He explained that at the time, Sudan was unofficially divided into two administrative areas: those under government control and those controlled by the SPLA. Koch area fell under SPLA control, specifically under Mich state, with James Garawak Dili serving as the commander in charge. The SPLA, or Sudan People’s Liberation Army, was the military wing, while the SPLM, or Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, was the political wing. Commissioners in areas like Koch were appointed by the SPLA. Koch had been under SPLA control since the departure of Arab soldiers in 1988, and there was no presence of Sudanese government forces in the area until the peace agreement was signed.

The SPLA’s military activities primarily focused on capturing strategic towns like Bentiu, with active soldiers moving north for combat. In terms of governance, civil administrations were set up with county commissioners appointed by the SPLA.

Regarding the church’s relationship with SPLA leaders, James emphasized the church’s neutral role as a place where people sought refuge and information. The church served as a center for community information dissemination, including vaccination programs and alerts about impending attacks. Key contacts for the church included the commissioner and the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) director. In local governance, chiefs played a crucial role in handling social matters within communities, with paramount chiefs overseeing larger areas and sub-chiefs managing smaller administrative units. Chiefs and sub-chiefs were appointed by their respective communities to represent their interests and address local concerns.

Rising conflict and attacks in southern Sudan from 1998

James Kuong Ninrew Dong recounted the emergence of militia attacks and civilian displacement in the Koch area, shedding light on the escalating violence and its impact on the local population. Initially, the area was quiet upon James’s arrival in 1995, with no reported attacks. However, from 1998 onwards, a series of attacks coincided with the construction of roads.

James recounted his experiences to the Court, detailing how the church served as a vital source of information when alternatives were scarce. He described how, around 1998, individuals began seeking refuge in Koch as they fled areas like Bentiu, Nhialdiu, and Leer. James learned that the government had launched an offensive aimed at opening roads out of Bentiu. As the military moved southwards, they pushed the inhabitants south. These displaced individuals, mostly women, children, and the elderly, arrived at the church seeking spiritual and material support. James and his colleagues provided counseling and limited assistance, often relying on relief supplies from partners.

After some time, James understood from the stories he was hearing that there was a pattern behind the military’s strategy. It involved three stages: aerial bombardment with Antonov bombers, followed by helicopter gunship attacks, and finally ground troop operations to clear the area. Survivors faced the dilemma of surrendering to the militia or fleeing southward to Koch for safety. Despite the increasing security risks, James chose to remain in Koch to reassure the community, who viewed the church as a place of safety and hope. However, he later regretted this decision as it endangered lives. As he explained to the Court: “It would create fear if I was the first one running away, it would send a bad signal that even the pastor is running away and deserted the area. But I regret it now because if I had taken the decision earlier, some people that died would not have died.” He eventually urged residents to evacuate upon receiving information from the commission about imminent attacks. Once areas were cleared, roads were constructed to showcase the Sudanese military’s ability to provide security for the oil companies, enabling their operations. James stressed that the aim of the attacks was depopulation regardless of human or animal presence.

James recalled that he first began hearing of these attacks and of the military strategy behind them in early or mid-1998, starting with reports of skirmishes near Bentiu. When people fled the attacks from areas south of Bentiu, including Whit, Nhaldiu, Duar, and Rier, they came to Koch and sought refuge in the church where they related their experiences to James himself. When asked whether these displaced individuals had been injured and what injuries they had suffered, James explained that some people had bullet injuries, while many others had developed sicknesses, including malaria, after walking long distances and were at risk of starvation as they fled their homes. Throughout his testimony, James highlighted the challenges faced by civilians and the critical role of the church in providing support and guidance during times of crisis.

James explained that this went on for approximately two years, with people arriving in Koch with information about continuing attacks. People kept coming, and road construction continued to Leer, now called Thar Jath. In 1999-2000, the attacks progressed as the military sough to extend the road to Mirmir using the same strategies.

The Attacks on Koch and Mok/Ngorp

The prosecution then moved on to ask the plaintiff about his own personal experiences from the attacks: what he saw and how the attacks played out. James, in his testimony, outlined his firsthand experiences during the conflict in southern Sudan, focusing on the events surrounding the area of Koch. From mid- to late 1998, Antonov planes conducted aerial bombardments, followed by helicopter gunship attacks and ground troop operations, to depopulate areas to facilitate road construction for the benefit of oil companies.

One of the attacks that James experienced firsthand took place in Koch. James explained that he was in Koch to participate in a peace conference, together with a man who would eventually become one of the other plaintiffs in the case. The peace conference aimed to fostering reconciliation between the groups responsible for the recurrent attacks, primarily killing cattle, in Koch and the surrounding areas. Because these groups were from the same clan as the local chief, the chief convened representatives from these groups to discuss the conflict and why they were killing cattle. Although both groups fell under Chief Marwan’s jurisdiction, they hailed from distinct payams, representing different clans engaged in hostilities against each other.

The attack was anticipated, as similar incidents had occurred weeks prior near Koch. Understanding by now the pattern of the attacks, James and the other civilians knew that the helicopter gunships would follow. True to this pattern, the gunships arrived merely a week after the initial bombardment. As the attack began, he and others sought safety in bunkers as helicopter attacks targeted the area, resulting in casualties in a nearby village. A helicopter gunship first attacked Koch, but the civilians, including James, hid in bunkers. Fifteen people sought refuge in a bunker that was meant for five. Despite the subsequent two-day assault on Koch, there were no reported casualties within the town, which James attributed to the preparedness of the population. Unable to find targets in the town, the helicopter flew away to a nearby village, killing a woman and her husband as well as cattle.

James also recalled an earlier attack in a village near Leer, in 1998. James was there for a regular visit as that district was part of his parish. He recounted hearing the distinct noise of Antonov aircraft, followed swiftly by bomb explosions, one of which struck their vicinity and another approximately a kilometer away, totaling seven bombs. In the aftermath the following morning, they counted 18 fatalities and several wounded survivors.  

When prompted to elucidate on the nature and usage of Antonov aircraft, James described them as Russian-made planes initially intended for relief missions but repurposed in Khartoum to drop bombs. These planes were outfitted with explosives loaded onto drums and barrels and then dropped over targeted areas to detonate upon impact.

James confirmed that he had personally seen such aircraft, albeit not while they were being used for bombing but rather for delivering food aid. However, he knew that they were used for bombing civilians in the northern regions. The attack in question, which was carried out at night, caught civilians unaware, reflecting a deliberate tactic of surprise assaults. Identifying the perpetrators, James attributed the attack to the Sudanese government, citing reports and firsthand accounts. He noted that American visitors had been present, and they returned home and reported on it. The Council of Churches, through John Ashworth’s monitoring system, tracked such incidents across southern Sudan.

James recalled the attack vividly. While acknowledging a margin of error regarding the exact year, he affirmed that he had been present during the incident and that it had occurred during the dry season, specifically around mid-May. James explained that there were no rebel groups operating in the area at that time. All of the armed forces were around Bentiu.

He described civilians as defenseless against the unexpected nighttime attack, which created widespread fear and panic. It caused extensive damage and casualties, with some fatalities not caused directly by bombs but induced by terror and trauma. Many of the buildings were grass-thatched huts, which burned quickly. Though James himself was physically unharmed, he was deeply affected emotionally by what he saw –dead bodies as well as wounded survivors, whom he described as being in “a horrible situation.” He and others eventually organized themselves to help the injured. The aftermath prompted mass displacement, with very few people choosing to remain in the village. James himself returned to Koch, where he remained until the attack there. From then on, the intensity of the attacks increased. The military pushed forward, eventually establishing a base near Thar Jath around 2000-2001. This, together with the escalation of attacks, signaled an imminent threat to Koch. Here, James clarified that he understood this to be driven by the interests of oil companies like Lundin and Petronas. The construction of the road, and the related attacks, was for them to get access to the oil fields.    

Despite warnings of impending danger, James and others remained until escalating threats necessitated further evacuation southward. James’s testimony underscored the vulnerability of civilians in the face of the military attacks, leading to significant trauma and displacement, and he referred often to the repeating pattern the attacks followed.  

Attack on Thonyor

Another attack that James personally experienced occurred in Thonyor, which served as his home base. As a pastor, he frequently travelled to visit other areas, such as Koch. In Thonyor, James and his community were attacked by ground troops, primarily composed of militias. During this assault, James lost his mother-in-law, as well as several other relatives and cousins. This attack took place in June/July 2001, six months after the previous attack in Koch in December 2000.

James explained that the use of ground troops was the army’s third strategy, following bombings and helicopter attacks. These troops would come to check for any remaining survivors. This strategy was employed during the attacks from Leer to Thonyor. The attackers burned Leer down before advancing to Thonyor. He described Thonyor as a very small area surrounded by streams, making it look like an island. The inhabitants, including James, believed it was the safest place due to its difficult access. Although they could hear gunfire and see planes from Leer, they thought the attackers would not come to the swamps. However, they were proven wrong when the attackers arrived at night. The residents had to hide in the swamp water amidst mosquitoes and snakes – particularly challenging in June.

James identified the attackers as militias allied with the Sudan Armed Forces, led by Paulino Matiep, with the specific assaults on Leer and Thonyor led by Peter Gadet. The attackers typically used small arms such as Kalashnikovs and RPGs – portable weapons that could be carried by an individual. When prosecution asked how these weapons were used, James confirmed that these weapons were used in the attacks to kill people, noting pointedly that “Guns are used to kill people!”

He explained that he and other victims recognised the attackers because they were Nuer. Survivors who escaped the attacks talked about them afterward, and some militia combatants even admitted their involvement. Peter Gadet himself also spoke to people, confirming his role. The attackers wore government uniforms.

Here the prosecution sought to clarify how James could know who was leading these militia attacks and how the local population could recognise the combatants. James explained that they could identify the attackers as militia groups because it was not the first time these militias had come. The militias were based in Khartoum, and their leader, Matiep, was also based there. When he was in southern Sudan, he operated in areas controlled by the regime. Seeing Matiep signified the presence of the regime. When asked about the uniforms or any distinctive features indicating they were regime-allied, James confirmed that the regime provided everything the attackers had. James also mentioned Peter Gadet, noting that Gadet had switched sides several times. However, during the attack on Leer, Gadet was aligned with the regime.

After asking several more questions about the number of militia groups and their transportation methods, the prosecution returned to questioning James about his personal experiences and losses from the attack. During the assault on Thonyor, James was displaced, losing his mother-in-law, other relatives, and property. The militia took their cattle as the civilians’ priority was to flee as quickly as possible. Due to the sequence of attacks, James and others from Thonyor and Leer had to relocate further south to places like Nhial and Mabong, with some moving as far as Bar el Ghazal. The relocation process was fraught with minor attacks, suggesting that the attackers were following them. Every time they settled in a new location, the attackers would arrive shortly thereafter, forcing them to continue moving.

Systemic displacement of civilians

James testified that following the attack on Thonyor, he moved southward to Nhial due to the insecurity in the area. Most of the residents from Thonyor, Leer, and surrounding areas also relocated, some as far as Bar el Ghazal.

The prosecution asked the plaintiff whether he was present during any other attacks following the one on Thonyor. James explained that subsequent minor attacks seemed to follow them, necessitating further relocation. From Thonyor, they moved to a nearby village. The next day, another attack forced them to move across the swamp. The attackers pursued them even into the swampy areas, and each time they settled, the attackers arrived the following day.

James relocated to Nhial in Panjar, while others moved to places like Mobong. When asked to describe the attacks in Pavong and Nhial, James explained that Pavong, initially a small village with about ten households, became a centre for internally displaced persons after the displacements. Its population swelled to over 300,000, making it a target for militia attacks. People from Pavong then moved to Nhial, a day’s walk away. Another attack occurred in Nhial, prompting further relocation. James described the attacks as following a consistent pattern aimed at displacing people. The militias used weapons like RPGs, grenades, rifles, and Kalashnikovs. The attackers, who were the same militias, aimed to displace the population using these weapons.

The prosecutor then asked James about Ganiel. Ganiel was larger than Thonyor, James replied. It was comparable to Leer in terms of population and presence of NGOs. The civilians who fled were considered internally displaced people and were housed by families and distributed across different areas. These NGO that were present during this time were COSPI (Italian), IRC, Norwegian Refugee Council, UNICEF, Save the Children, and others. When asked if he had any contact with these organisations, James explained that he had actively sought their assistance for the internally displaced people. He also communicated with local authorities and the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) to advocate for the needs of those affected. James estimated it had been almost a year, around 2002 or 2003 after he left Thonyor.

Then the prosecution asked James about an attack on Bieh. James explained that Bieh, located northeast of Mirmir, was a place for IDPs, mainly from Nhialdiu and Wau. While they were queuing for food and blankets distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP), helicopter gunships suddenly attacked, firing on the people. This attack killed about 17 people initially, with the death toll rising to 25 due to injuries. James was in the area around the time of the incident to visit people, many of whom were members of his church from Nimne, and to understand the situation. He sought to urge local authorities and the UN to support the people. It was a routine visit. James detailed that the helicopter gunship was highly visible, with soldiers disembarking and indiscriminately shooting at people. The church was located away from the distribution centre where the attack occurred. James believed the aim was to displace people from gathering places. James confirmed there were no rebels present, otherwise, the soldiers would not have landed the helicopter. They knew it was a UN area where weapons were not permitted. The judge interrupted the prosecution’s questioning and asked for clarification on whether James was present during the attack or after. James clarified that he was there a week before the incident, learned the date of the food distribution, returned, and happened to be there when the attack occurred.

James described the helicopter gunships as helicopters mounted with guns manned by soldiers who fired them from the air or land. These weapons could kill instantly and burn grass-thatched huts. James clarified that only the government of Sudan had access to such military resources. The government owned the gunships – the militias and the SPLA did not have the ability to own such resources. The same was true of the Antonov planes.

Attack in Nimne

James testified about an attack in Nimne, where he was not present but received information from various church sources. He described the devastating impact, including the destruction of the Catholic church and the severe injuries and deaths caused by the bombings. Survivors shared their experiences two days later in Koch. James detailed the first attack he experienced near Koch, involving visitors delivering aid. He confirmed the presence of Antonov bombings and the use of helicopter gunships targeting civilians, aiming to clear the area. James also participated in peace conferences, including the one in Koch, and described subsequent attacks and evacuations. He highlighted the continuous threat and displacement of people due to these attacks, ultimately leading to significant loss and trauma.


On the second day of testimony, the prosecution sought clarification from James regarding the attacks he had previously described. The prosecution referenced a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which indicated that a peace conference took place in Koch in 2002, differing from the year James had earlier mentioned. James clarified that there were multiple peace conferences. The conference he described involved community members, whereas the HRW report pertained to a later conference in 2002, which he did not attend. The peace conference that James attended in Koch, during which he experienced the described attack, occurred in 1999 or 2000.

The prosecution prompted James to give more details about the specific attack involving a family near Koch, and the victims: how they were attacked and whether he saw their injuries. James recounted that a helicopter gunship hovered over Koch during the day, prompting people to seek shelter in bunkers. The helicopter eventually targeted a family in a nearby community, landing and setting their hut on fire. James and others arrived after the helicopter left to find the building in flames, dead bodies lying on the ground, and animals with visible bullet injuries.

James provided details on Peter Gadet, explaining that Gadet had switched allegiances multiple times. At the time of the Thonyor attack, Gadet was allied with the regime, which provided him with supplies and ammunition, and carried out its orders to clear the area. James noted that captured soldiers confessed that Gadet was their commander, and they wore uniforms of the Sudan Armed Forces.

Regarding the attack on Thonyor, James mentioned losing property, including cattle and buildings, which were in the custody of his mother-in-law and cousins. He listed his deceased relatives, including his mother-in-law, three cousins, and other family members, totaling seven in Thonyor and fourteen overall. The causes of death ranged from bullet wounds to drowning and illness while fleeing.

Plaintiffs’ counsel

The plaintiffs’ counsel began by asking general questions about the regime’s military strategy, specifically focusing on the three stages involving Antonov planes. James explained that the number of bombs an Antonov plane would carry depended on the targeted area, with a maximum of 12 and a minimum of 3 tons of barrels. These planes could fly either in pairs or alone. Most of the barrels contained multiple explosives that would detonate upon impact.

Regarding livestock, James confirmed that he owned cattle, including milk cows and bulls. He typically had around 10 milk cows at a time, although this number fluctuated as cows became pregnant. When displaced by attacks, civilians had to abandon their cattle, which were then taken by militias.

In concluding questions about aid organisations James had contact with in Ganiel, the counsel inquired if there was contact with any organisations in the north. James stated that they did not have significant connections with the northern population, so he was not certain.

Defense Cross-Examination

After the prosecution and plaintiffs’ counsel had their opportunity to ask questions it was time for Ian Lundin’s and Alexandre Schneiter’s defense attorneys to conduct their cross-examination. The defense argued that the witness’s current testimony significantly differed from his statements in the New York court during the Talisman case, as well as from what he told the Swedish police during their investigation. The defense posed their questions in a harsh tone and seemed to be frustrated with the plaintiff’s responses. On several occasions the defense interrupted both the plaintiff and the interpreters. The defense strategy focused on challenging the plaintiff’s credibility and motives. They questioned his involvement in the case and the role he played in gathering victims and witnesses.

Ian Lundin’s Defense

During the cross-examination, Ian Lundin’s defense recapped James’s timeline of movements: arriving in Koch in 1995, fleeing in December 2000 following a helicopter attack, and subsequent moves to Tyhonyor, Nial, and Ganiel. James clarified his stays, particularly in Nhial where he had priestly duties.

The defense questioned James about his role in the Talisman case, highlighting discrepancies in his statements about when he became a plaintiff. Initially, he mentioned wanting to be a plaintiff around 2000, with formal involvement in 2004, though his earlier deposition indicated involvement from 2001 and formally in 2003. James admitted possible confusion about the dates. James confirmed he represented the church and himself in the Talisman case, providing relevant documents. The defense probed his role within the church’s executive committee and its approval of witnesses, which James denied, explaining that the church identified victims rather than appointing witnesses.

Further, the defense questioned inconsistencies in his residency timeline, noting contradictions in his statements about living in Cairo until 1992 versus 1993 and discrepancies in his documented responses. James clarified his movements between Cairo and Sudan until 1994. Moreover, the defense referenced the plaintiff’s police interview in Stockholm in 2012, where James provided details that contradicted statements he had just made in his testimony. James replied that the first statements he made during the police interviews were in 2012, more than ten years ago.

There was an interruption in court when the defense introduced new Talisman documents that were signed by James but had not previously been previewed by the prosecution or the plaintiffs’ counsel. The defense requested permission from the judge to ask about these new materials. The plaintiffs’ counsel objected to this and requested to file an objection stating that the plaintiffs’ counsel should have time in advance to review these documents before the defense continued questioning the witness.

The judge emphasized the importance of all parties having access to and understanding the documents to ensure a fair examination. The judge instructed that any materials not previously reviewed should be introduced properly to allow all parties, including the court, to follow along. The defense attorney Samuelson objects to this procedure, arguing it is not always practical. The judge insists on the necessity to avoid surprises and maintain fairness. The defense continues to argue, but the plaintiff’s counsel insists on the right to review all documents in advance. The judge acknowledges this and states that new documents should be flagged for potential re-examination, ensuring the main examination relies on pre-approved evidence. The court settles that the new documentation will not be seen as written evidence with a specific evidential theme, but rather intended to challenge the credibility of the plaintiff. The judge overrules the plaintiff counsels’ objections and allows the defense to continue their questioning focusing on the new material. 

The defense then challenges the plaintiff’s timeline, highlighting discrepancies between his current testimony and statements made to Swedish police in 2012 regarding his departure from Koch. The plaintiff had previously stated he left Koch in June-July 1998, which contradicts his current claim of leaving in December 2000. Additionally, in the 2012 police interview, the pastor recounted fleeing when the military was outside his hut. However, in recent testimony, he described a helicopter hovering over Koch, without mentioning the presence of ground troops. James clarified that there was no difference, explaining that the attackers came with planes, helicopters, and ground forces. He asserted that if a helicopter was present, the ground forces were not far away, as this was part of their strategy.

Then the defense moved on to the Talisman documents. James was questioned about discrepancies between his current testimony and his previous statements made in the Talisman deposition. The defense asked if he recalled his statements in the deposition. James replied negatively, prompting the defense to cite specifics: in 1995, he stated he moved to Leer from Koch, returned to Koch after a month in Leer, and stayed until 1998 due to another displacement, describing an attack near Liech, not Koch, and omitting the deaths of two individuals outside Koch. James replied that there was no connection between the attacks. Liech was an entirely different village that was attacked. It was a separate attack on a local community that he had discussed earlier, and he had gone to Leer for consultation, not because he was fleeing.

The defense continued with their argument, presenting the “declaration” that the pastor himself signed in connection with the Talisman case. In this document, he stated under oath that he was displaced in 1998 after an attack on Liech, and described seeing Antonov planes and combat helicopters, which prompted him to flee.

Further questions arose regarding James’s timeline of his stay in Nhial in 2001, when the defense questioned if his statements aligned with his Talisman case deposition. James denied being in Nhial during that period, asserting he was in Koch. The defense continued by examining James’ conflicting statements about his movements between Nhial, Ganiel, and Nairobi in different testimonies, noting inconsistencies in the years mentioned. They pointed out that he had told the Swedish police that he had fled to Nhial because of the attacks, whereas reports from the Talisman case describe him as living in Nhial for two years and having voluntarily traveled around in the area. When asked about his memory lapses and corrections in the Talisman deposition, James attributed them to the passage of time but maintained that the core events were accurately described. The defense concluded by highlighting the discrepancies between James’ current testimony and his prior statements.

The defense continued to confront James with further discrepancies between his statements and claims about the number of cattle he lost. James clarified that he lost livestock and property in December 2000 when he left Koch, and again in Thonyor in 2001. The defense continued to push him on the exact number of cows he lost and why he had given different responses at different times. James attempted to protest against this line of questioning, pointing out that the damage claims had been separated from the criminal case so why were they insisting on addressing these issues now? He referred the defense attorney to his own lawyers to answer such questions. Here, Judge Zander intervened, explaining to James that the defense has the court’s permission to confront the witness to compare the information he had provided with his previous statements.

The defense then displayed a table from the Talisman trial on the court’s screens, showing “lost assets,” including categories for “cattle” and “buildings,” both only listing losses for 1998. The defense noted that there was no mention of property losses for 1999, 2000, 2001, or 2002, asking why these other losses that James claimed had not been included. James responded that the 2000 attack on Koch had not occurred yet, so those losses could not be included. This confused the defense attorney, Torgny Wetterberg, who pointed out that the document had been written in 2006. James then clarified that after Talisman left the area in 1997 and Lundin Oil stepped in, losses incurred in subsequent attacks were not relevant to Talisman and therefore did not appear in the chart. Wetterberg expressed great surprise at this statement, saying that it necessitated him showing another document.

Thomas Bodström, the plaintiffs’ counsel, reacted strongly and requested a break, saying that he needed to review the document in order to be able to properly represent his client. He criticized the defense’s approach and accused the Court of accommodating Ian Lundin’s lawyers. After a brief deliberation, the judge allowed the defense to continue questioning the witness about the new document, with the possibility of recalling the witness if necessary. Bodström remarked that at that point, any potential damage would have already be done.

The new document revealed by the defense showed that that the plaintiffs’ compensation claims in the Talisman case extended up until 2003, contradicting the pastor’s earlier statement that the claims only went up to 1997. When confronted with this discrepancy, the pastor explained that with various oil companies coming and going over the years, it had created a lot of confusion among civilians in the area. It was unclear to them which companies were responsible at what times. The pastor clarified that he attributed property damages before 1997 to Talisman and those after 1997 to Lundin, noting that that was when Talisman left and Lundin took over Block 5A.  

Alexandre Schneiter’s Defense

Alexandre Schneiter’s defense then took up the questioning, this time focusing on the witness’s role in and affiliations with various church groups, including the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC). James confirmed that he had been a member of the board of trustees between 1997 and 2003 but had not been engaged in daily operations. The defense noted that the NSCC had been described by some as the spiritual branch of the SPLA. James denied any direct influence or association between the SPLA and the New Sudan Council of Churches, emphasising that the SPLA was a military organisation while the church was religious.

James recounted learning about the Talisman case in 2001 through John Sudan, who was also a pastor. He stated that the decision to sue Talisman was a collective community decision made in order to seek help, and could not be attributed to a single individual. James acknowledged knowing John Sudan and Matthew Diang, describing them as senior figures within the church. He also stated that he was unaware of any links between SPLA membership and himself, attributing any confusion to name mix-ups.

The defense then questioned James about Derek Hammond, who led “Faith in Action,” an organization that provided emergency aid in Koch, which the church had identified as an area in need of assistance. Although James initially denied having engaged in any business with Hammond, the defense presented a Sudanese registry document showing that the two had conducted business together, as well as a registered company deed indicating that both were co-founders of a company called Nile Group. operationalized. James clarified that the intention had been to have a construction company, but it was never started up. He further denied having any shares in the company, despite records suggesting otherwise, and reiterated that they had never paid any share capital. Their intention had been to rebuild destroyed churches and schools.

The defense then moved on to asking James about his involvement with a group called “Liech Victims Voices,” which focused on seeking compensation from oil companies. The group was shown to have a Facebook account. The defense pursued questions about the group, which was aimed at victims of the “oil wars” and whose aims included obtaining compensation from the oil companies. James was asked if the group worked to pursue the Lundin case, and whether he had provided contacts to people in the Swedish investigation. James avoided giving categorical yes or no answers, stating he had no contact with the Swedish police investigation until the publication of the “Unpaid Debt” report. The defense argued that through Liech Victims Voices, the pastor facilitated contact between victims and the  Swedish investigators, who collected new names of relatives from him, contrary to his earlier statements. The defense highlighted emails suggesting the pastor engaged in independent investigative work, arranging travel plans and funding for victims to meet Swedish police in Juba. James explained this by saying he had written down the names to provide the investigators with the correct spelling of names he had mentioned in interviews.

The defense then presented a new email in which James was referred to by the police investigator as the one who identified the names of the official victims in the current case. James replied that there was no contradiction in his statements: during the interview, he provided the investigator with the names of the victims and was later asked to contact them, but he had not done any independent investigations.

Alexander Schneiter’s defense moved on to question James about his interactions with Petter Bolme and Egbert Wesselink and their roles in the investigation. The defense inquired if James knew Petter Bolme or Egbert Wesselink and whether they had been involved with the Liech Victims Voices initiative. James acknowledged that he assumed Bolme worked part-time at PAX but was unsure of the specifics. When asked about his contact with Bolme during the investigation, James stated that while Bolme attended some meetings, their interaction was minimal.

James confirmed that he had shared several lists of witnesses and complainants with Bolme but struggled to recall the specifics, noting there were over 60 names. When asked directly if he had provided the investigation or Bolme with any new names that did not exist before, James clarified that not all names were newly added; some were already known to the investigators or on their list. The defense highlighted a conflict over whether there were exactly 60 names, with the court’s notes indicating James mentioned more than 60 names, but it remained unclear whether these were given to Bolme or the prosecutor.

The prosecutor’s re-examination

During the last day of James’ hearing, the prosecution had a chance to ask the plaintiff complementary questions. This time, the focus was on his testimony regarding the events in Liech and his subsequent flight from Koch. James clarified that the incident in Liech was distinct from others, and Liech was located two hours away from Koch. He detailed the coordinated attack on Liech by government troops, which had been preceded by aerial bombings. James recounted how survivors fled to Koch and described the challenges in confirming casualties due to the chaotic nature of the escape. He described his movements from Koch to various locations, ultimately reaching Thonyor after weeks of displacement.

The prosecution also asked about the presence of SPLA soldiers and militia groups during the attacks, to which he responded that the only people there were cattle herders. He reiterated that at the time, most SPLA forces were around Bentiu so were no SPLA forces in the southern area. James also discussed fleeing from an expected attack near Mirmir, where the oil road was being built. He described how he went from place to place to evade further attacks. He later learned the details of attacks, including that people had been killed, although he pointed out that it was very difficult to keep track of what had happened where, and how many had been killed, while on the run. However, he clearly recalled hearing survivors repeatedly describe the same pattern of attacks with which they had become familiar: Antonov bombers, followed by helicopter gunships and then ground troops. The cattle that were not killed by bullets during the attacks were plundered.

At the close of James’s testimony, the Court thanked him for responding to all the questions.