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 looked at well-established facts about Sudan’s oil war through the lens of international law and Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, drawing attention to the right to remedy and raparation of victims of gross human rights violations and to international legal liability of business enterprises.
Unpaid Debt describes how the arrival of Lundin, Petronas and OMV in concession area Block 5A in 1997 set off a spiral of violence as the Government of Sudan attempted to control the area by force. Until 2003, gross crimes were routinely committed by all sides, included killings, rape, child abduction, torture, pillage, use of child soldiers, destruction of schools, markets and clinics, and burning of food, huts and animal shelters. Thousands died and almost 200,000 people were violently displaced.
ECOS called upon the oil companies to address the fate of the harmed communities of the oil war. Its goal was a remedy process that would do justice and enable survivors to rebuild their lives. Lundin, Petronas and OMV took a confrontational approach and denied any responsibility. They claim to have acted in accordance with applicable local and international laws and to have 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. On 11 November 2021, they were formally charged with aiding and abetting international atrocity crimes. The trial is expected to open in mid 2022 and will take one and a half year.
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 will be the first time since the Nuremburg trials that a multi-billion dollar company stands accused of aiding and abetting war crimes. And most importantly, it may lead to remedy and reparation of harmed communities by actors who stand credibly accused of contributing to war crimes and profiting from it, Lundin, Petronas, OMV and their shareholders.