Sweden brings criminal indictments against two fossil fuel executives for ‘grave war crimes’

Sweden brings criminal indictments against two fossil fuel executives for ‘grave war crimes’

On Thursday, Nov. 11, prosecutors in Sweden indicted two Lundin Oil executives for complicity in war crimes perpetrated in Sudan, between the years of 1999 and 2003. Chairman Ian Lundin and former CEO Alex Schneiter reportedly called upon the Sudanese government to “secure a potential oilfield, knowing this would mean seizing the area by force.” In so doing, Swedish prosecutors say that Lundin Energy (Lundin Oil has been renamed twice since 2003) is complicit in the resulting massacres.

In a statement, prosecutors explained their position: “What constitutes complicity in a criminal sense is that they made these demands despite understanding or, in any case being indifferent to, the military and the militia carrying out the war in a way that was forbidden according to international humanitarian law.”

These indictments come after a 2010 report by watchdog activists European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, pointed to Lundin, along with other oil companies, as instigators in the growing violence of Sudan’s ongoing civil war between Christian and Muslim areas of the country. 

Lundin spokesman Robert Eriksson released a statement saying the charges are “incomprehensible,” and, “Both Ian and Alex strongly deny the charges, and we know that Lundin did nothing wrong. There is no evidence linking any representatives of Lundin to the alleged primary crimes in this case.”

Prosecutor Karolina Wieslander also said in a statement: ”The main evidence here consists of a large number of civilians who have been subject to attacks. We will also hear witnesses who followed and studied the situation in Sudan and, amongst other things, met refugees and heard their stories. Besides this, we will rely on written reports from the area, primarily from the UN and other international organisations as well as from journalists who observed the area.”

Refugees from the violence of greed

According to The Washington Post, the sticking point comes around an oil field in a territory identified as Block 5A. Prosecutors say it was Lundin executives who decided to try and sidestep humanitarian considerations by changing their “view of who should be responsible for the security around the company’s operations.” The Swedish authority says the company and its executives knew very well what that would mean in regards to escalating violence.

Lundin sold out its claims in Sudan in 2003. The profits pulled in from this sale are also a part of the prosecutors claims. 

The authority said that there also was a claim to confiscate an amount of 1.4 billion kronor ($161 million) from Lundin Energy AB, which, according to the prosecutor, is the equivalent value of the profit of 720 million kronor ($83 million) which the company made on the sale of the business in 2003.

Sudan’s former President Omar al-Beshi is still wanted on war crimes.

Egbert Wesselink, a spokesperson for the Dutch NGO PAX, sent a statement to Reuters praising the prosecutors’ investigation and decision to charge: “This is a great victory for justice and a historic achievement … This is the first time since Nuremberg that a listed company will have accounted in court for war crimes. Many corporations look at human rights as a source of risk that must be managed, instead of a norm that must be upheld.”

Lundin is not only the chair of the fossil fuel company, he is the controlling family shareholder, according to the Financial Times. The Lundin family are one of the more prominent and powerful families in the country. This case marks the first time since the Nuremberg trials that prosecutors have brought “grave war crime” charges and indictments against individuals. Lundin and Schneiter both reside in Switzerland.

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