The Unpaid Debt report

The legacy of Lundin, Petronas, and OMV in Block 5A, Sudan, 1997-2003

A group of aid agencies that worked in Sudan during the civil war, combining forces in the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS), called for an investigation into the role played by a consortium of oil companies in the conflict and advocated for the rights of the victims of the war for control over the oil fields.

ECOS’ report ‘Unpaid Debt, The Legacy of Lundin, Petronas and OMV in Sudan, 1997-2003′, documents how the start of oil exploration in Block 5A in Southern Sudan set off a spiral of violence as the Sudanese government and forces loyal to them set out to secure and take control of the area. Atrocities included killings, rape, child abduction, torture, the destruction of schools, markets and clinics and the burning of food, huts and animal shelters. Thousands died, and almost 200,000 people were violently displaced. The events in Sudan that led to these human rights abuses were earlier reported by a great variety of institutions, organisations, and experts. The site offers all publicly available documents related to the oil war, including expert analyses, news reports, and comments. It has a searchable database, all in English.

The terror in Block 5A began shortly after the Sudanese government signed an oil exploration contract with a consortium comprising Swedish company Lundin Oil AB, Petronas Carigali Overseas from Malaysia, OMV (Sudan) Exploration GmbH from Austria, and the Sudanese company Sudapet Ltd.

The oil consortium, the report says, should have been aware of the abuses committed by the armed groups that partly provided for their security needs. However, they continued to work with the Sudanese government, its agencies and its army.

ECOS called on the Swedish, Austrian and Malaysian governments to investigate whether, as a matter of international law, the companies were complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by others during the period 1997-2003.

ECOS also called for the oil companies to provide remedy to the survivors of the violence. In 2005, a material right to compensation for past injustices that occurred as a result of oil exploitation was created in both Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the country’s Interim National Constitution, but nothing was ever delivered. ECOS’ goal was a remedy process that would do justice to the victims and was designed to create the conditions for reconciliation and forgiveness, to bring crucial peace dividends and contribute to a much-needed environment of trust in the oil-producing areas and beyond.

Lundin, which led the oil consortium, denied that it violated the norms of international law or that it participated in or had, or ought to have had, knowledge of any of the illegal acts that are documented in the report. The company maintains that it always acted in accordance with all applicable local and international laws and its operations have been conducted in a manner which seeks to have a positive influence on the country and people of Sudan.

With an aim of promoting peace and achieve justice for the victims of the oil war in Block 5A, Unpaid Debt recommended that:

  1. The Governments of Sweden, Austria, and Malaysia investigate the alleged violations of norms of international law by their national oil companies.
  2. The Governments of Sweden, Austria, and Malaysia account for their failure to prevent the alleged human rights violations and international crimes.
  3. The Governments of Sweden, Austria, and Malaysia ensure appropriate compensation for all persons whose rights have been violated in the course of the war for control over Sudan’s oil fields.
  4. The international guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) take urgent initiatives to ensure implementation of the right to compensation as established by the CPA.
  5. The members of the Lundin Consortium open all records and fully cooperate with investigations into their role in the reported events.
  6. The members of the Lundin Consortium create enabling conditions for reconciliation with victims of the oil war, starting with the allocation of their fair share of compensation for the victims, which ECOS estimates at US$300 million.
  7. Investors divest from all companies that do not fully cooperate with investigations into credible allegations of complicity in international crimes or fail to compensate the victims of Sudan’s oil wars pursuant to the terms and conditions of the CPA and the UN Guidelines.


In 2010, in response to the publication of the report Unpaid Debt by the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS), the Swedish public prosecutor for international crimes opened an investigation into links between the reported violations and Sweden. In November 2017, Lundin Petroleum’s Chairman Ian H Lundin and its CEO and President Alexandre Schneiter were identified as suspects of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sudan.

The importance of court proceedings would be threefold. It would be the first time that anybody will be held to account for alleged contribution to any of the unspeakable horrors of Sudan’s civil wars. It would be a very rare occasion that a multi-billion dollar company would have to defend itself against complicity in international crimes. And, finally, it will be a unique opportunity to make the members of the Lundin Consortium and their shareholders contribute to the provision of remedy for victims of gross and systematic human rights violations.

Download the full report Unpaid Debt, The Legacy of Lundin, Petronas and OMV in Sudan, 1997-2003

There is a separate report with satellite images of Block 5A.

Under reports we have collected links to some of the main documents and reports on the issue, including Lundin Petroleum’s responses.

Once a court case opens, this website will offer real time coverage of developments.

See also

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