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Lundin and crimes against International Law

Lundin and crimes against international law

It will soon be two years since a preliminary investigation was started by district prosecutor Magnus Elving into crimes under international law in Sudan. In March the prosecutor stated in a press release that the investigation into whether Swedish companies had been accessories to crimes will take some time. How much time, he did not wish to go into.


“It is an important case in principle, and I hope that it leads to a prosecution. It touches on complex issues and it would be very valuable to achieve a clarification of what responsibility under international law can be demanded of companies and their managements,” says Cecilia Tengroth, international lawyer.


According to the prosecutor, the investigation should answer three central questions:



Is it possible to prove that the alleged crimes committed in Block 5A by the military and militias associated with the government took place during the relevant period?


In this case, were individuals with links to Sweden aware of these crimes?


Have these people in any way encouraged crimes by “word or deed” – that is to say, have they, through their actions, decisions, psychological influence or in any other way, encouraged the perpetrators in their decisions to commit criminal acts?


The first two points are fairly self-evident. The crimes in Sudan are well documented, and it should not be impossible for the prosecutor to prove that people in management positions at Lundin were well aware that crimes were being committed.


­ What will be difficult to prove is a link between those decisions taken by the management or board of Lundin Oil and those crimes against international law committed in the area. It is a question of how much proof one can gather, concerning, for example, those decisions taken and the contacts made, says international lawyer Cecilia Tengroth.


According to ECOS, the prosecutor’s line in proving that individuals through their actions encouraged the perpetrators to commit criminal acts provides a rather narrow perspective. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has laid down a legal course that should be usable and provable by the prosecutor (caused, knowledge of and proximity to).


One question the prosecutor can investigate has to do with whether Lundin made use of child soldiers in order to protect oil installations in Sudan. In an article, Sudan expert Bengt Nilsson demands that the use of child soldiers be investigated. He himself was a witness to, and filmed, child soldiers at Lundin’s installations.


Immediately after the prosecutor's statement regarding the course of the investigation, the International Criminal Court convicted Thomas Lubanga of crimes against international law. He was convicted of having used child soldiers in the eastern Congo.


“When a child is recruited, as soon as he ends up in the camp, he is not the same person as previously. It does not take 10 years for a child to become a child soldier; it takes a maximum of two days, and then the brain has already changed. How can that be repaired?,” says Bukeni Waruzi, an expert in rehabilitating child soldiers, to Irin News at the end of the trial.


International and historical cases


The investigation into events in Sudan where Lundin was active is in many cases unique, particularly in Sweden. But there is a growing number of international cases in which the management of various companies are accused of crimes against international law.


“In modern times there has been no similar case in Sweden to the one with Lundin. The fact is that only three people have been convicted of crimes against international law in Sweden in modern times,” says Cecilia Tengroth.


 But prosecutions of companies for crimes against international law have been brought previously, and this is increasingly often the case in Europe.


After the Second World War the company management of the German companies Krupp, IG Farben and Frick were prosecuted for, and convicted of, war crimes and sentenced to between 18 months and 12 years in prison.


In Holland an investigation is being conducted into Guus Kouwenhoven for having sold weapons to Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone


In Holland the chemicals exporter Frans van Anraat was convicted of complicity in crimes against international law. He sold chemicals to Saddam Hussein’s regime. These chemicals were used to kill Kurds in Hablaya


In Belgium the oil company Total was prosecuted for crimes in Burma. The company was acquitted.


In Australia a criminal investigation was instituted into the mining company Anvil Mining. The company was acquitted.


France instituted a criminal investigation into the dumping of toxic material in the Ivory Coast by the oil company Trafigura.


These and many other cases of companies accused of crimes against international law have been collated by Business and Human Rights Resource Center, an independent organisation striving for justice:


“The moral question as regards Lundin's actions in Sudan is considerably simpler to answer than the purely legal question. But the argument that the company did not understand what was happening or that they believed that they were helping the local population does not sound particularly credible against the historical background of Sudan's bloody wars and those crimes against international law that were committed in the area,” says Cecilia Tengroth.


“It seems reasonable that the requirement of a duty or care should be much greater if you are operating in a country at war than, for example, in Norway. Within humanitarian law a manager has a responsibility for what a subordinate does, if the manager knew, or should have known, that the subordinate has committed or would commit a crime under international law. One cannot simply shut one's eyes to the reality that exists in either oilfields or battlefields,” concludes Cecilia Tengroth.