War crimes in Sudan: two ex-leaders of an oil group on trial in Sweden

Two former executives of a Swedish oil company began appearing in court in Stockholm on Tuesday for complicity in war crimes with the Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir between 1999 and 2003

War crimes in Sudan: two ex-leaders of an oil group on trial in Sweden

Two former executives of a Swedish oil company began appearing in court in Stockholm on Tuesday for complicity in war crimes with the Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir between 1999 and 2003.

This rare trial targeting company executives for such accusations comes after more than ten years of investigation. It is expected to be the longest in Swedish history as final arguments are scheduled for February 2026.

Swede Ian Lundin, managing director from 1998 to 2002 of Lundin Oil, and Swiss Alex Schneiter, at the time vice-president responsible for operations, are accused of having asked the Sudanese government to ensure the security of a site tanker, knowing that this would provoke a military offensive which resulted in the death of civilians.

"We look forward to being able to defend ourselves in court. These accusations are false, completely false and very vague," Ian Lundin, 62, in a strict gray suit, told reporters.

After an oil discovery by Lundin Oil in 1999 in "Block 5A", the field was the subject of clashes between, on the one hand, the Sudanese army and militiamen allied to the Khartoum regime of President Omar el -Bashir and, on the other hand, rebel groups.

The army and its militias carried out a military operation in this area "to create the necessary preconditions for oil exploration by Lundin Oil", said the prosecution at the start of the trial.

The assailants “used tactics and weapons that made it impossible to distinguish civilians from combatants or military targets from civilian property,” prosecutor Henrik Attorps said.

The army and its allies carried out aerial bombardments, helicopter fire on civilians, kidnappings, looting and burning of villages and crops, according to the indictment.

However, for prosecutors, the two accused were complicit in war crimes by entering into an agreement with the government.

MM. Lundin and Schneiter asked the Sudanese authorities to create "the conditions" necessary for the activity of their company, knowing that this would involve an "offensive", prosecutor Karolina Wieslander ruled in court.

For Mikael Ekman, who advises the NGO Civil Rights Defenders, this trial is "extremely important".

“It touches on the responsibility of leaders when they do business in countries at war,” he told AFP.

Mark Klamberg, professor of international law at Stockholm University, noted that trials of business executives in connection with war crimes were rare and this was a first in Sweden.

Both defendants face life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors have already announced that they are seeking a 10-year ban on running a business.

They also demanded the confiscation of 2.4 billion crowns (200 million euros) from the company Orron Energy, which succeeded Lundin Oil, the equivalent of the profits made on the sale of activities in Sudan in 2003 .

Oil production only started in 2006, after the withdrawal of Lundin. The deposit is now in the territory of South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011.

The investigation into these facts began in 2010 and resulted in a file of 80,000 pages, after hearing 150 people.

The defendants deny any irregularity.

In court, Torgny Wetterberg, the lawyer defending Ian Lundin, said the prosecution did not prove that the two men had participated in the commission of a crime, or even that they had knowledge of the time and place. of any crime.

"We had nothing to do with this conflict, on the contrary we acted for the good", assured Ian Lundin to the journalists.

Under the principle of extraterritoriality, Sweden can try crimes committed in a third country. Government clearance in 2018 was required to prosecute a foreign national.

05/09/2023 18:13:19 -         Stockholm (AFP)          © 2023 AFP