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Bildt avoids Sudan war crimes probe

Foreign minister Carl Bildt is not among the initial 40 people called answer questions about oil company Lundin Petroleum’s activities in the Sudan, as prosecutors in Sweden continued an investigation into the company's activities.

 

Magnus Elving of the International Prosecution Chamber in Stockholm (Internationella åklagarkammaren i Stockholm) is investigating the claims that crimes against humanity were committed in the wake of the oil extraction activities in southern Sudan during the years that Swedish oil and mining company Lundin was active there.

 

Behind the investigation is a report from 2010, ECOS (European Coalition on Oil in Sudan), by an umbrella group of European organizations.

 

The report, called “Unpaid Debt", urges Sweden, Austria and Malaysia to probe whether Lundin Petroleum (then Lundin Oil), in consortium with Petronas and OMV, had broken international law between the years

1997 and 2003.

 

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt was on the board of directors of Lundin Petroleum at the time.

 

The report claims that Lundin, together with the other companies active in the region, indirectly worsened the conflict in the area.

 

According to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN), Elving has started questioning some 40 people, in Sweden and abroad, but he wasn't prepared to tell the paper who these are.

 

“You will have to draw your own conclusions,” Elving told the DN reporter.

 

Bildt told the paper through his press secretary that he had no comments on whether or not he had received a summons from Elving.

 

However, later on Friday, Elving confirmed for the TT news agency that Bildt's name was not among the 40 on the initial list of people to be questioned.

 

Elvin refused to comment, however, on the likelihood that Bildt could be questioned at a later stage of the investigation.

 

Meanwhile, criticism continues to mount regarding Bildt’s connections to Lundin with respect to its activities in Ethiopia and whether this has affected how he and the foreign ministry has been handling the case with the two Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, currently in Ethiopian prison.

 

It has been suggested that the two were in the region looking into the company's activities in the area when they were arrested by Ethiopian authorities in the beginning of July.

 

At the beginning of the month Bildt repudiated the claims that his connections to Lundin would have had any impact on the case, in an interview with TV4 News.

 

“Why would it? There is no conceivable reason for that. I don’t believe that Lundin Petroleum is in that area but even if they were, it would be totally irrelevant,” Bildt said.

 

On Sunday, however, DN accused Bildt of not telling the whole truth about Lundin Petroleum’s activities in Ethiopia.

 

Bildt on the other hand admitted that the company had conducted talks about the region, but said these had been limited to “a study or similar” and not had anything to do with prospecting or mining in the country.

 

However, even within Bildt's own Moderate Party many are calling for an explanation by the foreign minister.

 

When daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) made some calls to the local party offices many said they wanted him to render a full explanation of his connection to Lundin Petroleum and what he has so far done to help the two jailed Swedes, at the party conference, currently underway in Örebro in central Sweden.

 

Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, however, can’t see how the two issues are connected.

 

“I am finding it difficult to understand what the one has to do with the other. Carl Bildt has throughout his career showed he is a staunch advocate for human rights, “Reinfeldt said to DN.