The Unpaid Debt project
In November 2006, a group of South Sudanese civil society organisations attending the conference ‘Oil and the Future of Sudan in Juba’ called upon the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) to assist in safeguarding the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Agreement had established a material right to compensation for injustices related to oil exploitation, but nothing was done. In response, PAX wrote Unpaid Debt for ECOS. The 2010 report renewed the new urgency of well-established facts about Sudan’s oil war by looking at it through the lens of international law. It highlighted the right to remedy of victims of human rights violations and international legal liability of business enterprises, which are still the goals of the Unpaid Debt project that PAX has been carrying out since.
Unpaid Debt carefully documents how the arrival of Lundin, Petronas and OMV in concession area Block 5A set off a spiral of violence as the Government of Sudan attempted to control the area by force. During Lundin’s six years of presence, massive crimes were routinely committed by all sides, included killings, rape, child abduction, torture, pillage, 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.
ECOS called for the oil companies to provide remedy to the survivors of the oil war. Its goal was a remedy process that would do justice to the victims and bring peace dividends, as crucial enabling factors for reconciliation and forgiveness.
Lundin denied any wrongdoing and chose a strictly confrontational approach. The company still maintains that it always acted in accordance with all applicable local and international laws and that its operations in Sudan improved living conditions.
In 2010, after receiving a copy of Unpaid Debt, the Swedish Prosecution Authority opened an investigation into links between the reported international crimes and Sweden. In November 2017, Lundin’s Chairman Ian H Lundin and its CEO and President Alexandre Schneiter were informed that they were the suspects in the investigation. The trial is expected to open in the second half of 2021.
The importance of the upcoming trial is threefold. It will be the first time that anybody will be held to account any crime committed during Sudan’s civil wars. It would be the first time since the Nuremburg trials that a multi-billion dollar company will stand accused of aiding and abetting war crimes. And, finally and most importantly, it may lead to remedy and reparation of people harmed during Sudan’s oil war by crucial outside actors who motivated and benefited from a horrific war, Lundin, Petronas, OMV and their shareholders.