Sudan: Oil Companies Complicit in International Crimes

Between 1997 and 2003, Sudanese government forces and their allied militias used a “scorched earth” policy to depopulate the areas where oil companies carried out oil exploration projects. As a result, thousands of people were killed, raped, tortured, abducted, and forcibly displaced from their homes.

report by the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) found that one foreign oil consortium, known at the time as Lundin Oil, “worked alongside the perpetrators of international crimes” and installed an “infrastructure [that] enabled the commission of crimes”. The report concluded that the Consortium “may have been complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed by Sudanese forces during this period.

In 2020, following an extensive multi-year investigation, Swedish prosecutors served a “final notice” on two of the company’s executives for their alleged complicity in “serious international crimes” in Sudan. This is the last step before a decision to prosecute under Swedish procedural law, and the trial of the company`s CEO Alex Schneiter and its chairman Ian Lundin is expected to commence this year. The Docket works with Swedish lawyers representing Sudanese victims to support their representation in the criminal case and ensure that they can obtain appropriate redress through the proceedings.

What Are We Doing?

The Docket is advocating for Sudanese victims of the crimes that Lundin Energy allegedly enabled.

The Docket is assisting the team of Swedish lawyers who have been appointed by the Swedish court to represent Sudanese victims. As part of the case, The Docket is:

  • Advocating for corporate accountability and supporting the Swedish prosecutor’s case that Lundin Energy executives should be held criminally liable. This is particularly important to counter the well‑funded campaign by Lundin’s defense and to ensure an end to impunity for the company’s alleged crimes.
  • Carrying out and supporting independent investigations in Sudan to strengthen the case against and ensure reparations for victims.
  • Helping victims tell their stories in their own words after decades of being silenced.

In support of the thousands of victims not represented in the Swedish legal case, The Docket is joining a coalition of NGOs advocating for the right to remedy and reparations for victims from Lundin Energy or successor companies under business and human rights principles.

The Swedish Case Against Lundin

Lundin’s complicity in war crimes is well documented in NGO reports, including a report by The Docket’s partners PAX for Peace entitled Unpaid Debt, which triggered the Swedish prosecutor’s investigation against Lundin in 2010. After an extensive investigation and various legal challenges brought by the Lundin executives in an attempt to evade responsibility, the Swedish prosecutor indicted Lundin Energy executives Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter on November 11, 2021 for complicity in war crimes committed by the Government of Sudan and its affiliated milia groups between 1997 and 2003.

Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter stand accused of “promoting” the ability of the Government of Sudan and its affiliate militia groups to enter and continue to operate within an area known as Block 5A, which had not been impacted by the civil war previously and where military forces and affiliated milia groups subsequently committed atrocity crimes against civilians.

In rejecting the energy executives' unfounded claims, Sweden has signaled its commitment to upholding its responsibility to investigate and prosecute international crimes, bringing perpetrators to justice, and providing remedies for Sudanese victims.

Anya Neistat, Legal Director, The Docket

Impact on Women and Children

During its oil exploitation project in southern Sudan, Lundin actively benefited from and facilitated war crimes and crimes against humanity, including massive displacement and destruction, killings, rapes, torture, and use of child soldiers. The “scorched earth” policy deployed by Sudanese government forces and their allied militias to depopulate the areas where Lundin carried out its oil exploration involved large-scale displacement, abductions, and rape. A focus of our work is ensuring that female survivors are represented in the criminal proceedings currently ongoing in Sweden. 

Dozens of towns and villages were burnt to the ground and over 200,000 civilians displaced, left with no means of survival and denied life-saving humanitarian assistance. More than 12,000 people, including many women and children, died; civilians were raped, tortured, enslaved, and children forcibly conscripted as soldiers.

While the exact numbers of victims are hard to come by, the following data collected by HRW in 2003 from the village chiefs in the area, gives an indication of the overall scale of abuses:

September 15, 1999 to April 2000:

90,000 displaced from Rubnyagai; 4,433 civilians killed including 1,433 children and 1,259 women; 1,500 children were abducted.

July 10, 2000 to December 2001:

150,000 displaced from Jikany, Jagei and Dok; 4,500 civilians killed, mostly children, women and elderly men, many of them burnt to death in their huts.

January 2002 to June 30, 2003:

4,000 people killed including 2,130 children and 955 women. More than 100 children kidnapped, some were later killed and others disappeared

Steps Towards Justice

The November 2021 indictment of Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter marks a historical step towards justice for victims who have been denied accountability and redress since the commission of crimes between 1997 and 2003.

Prior to the indictment, the Lundin Energy executives brought countless legal challenges to the Swedish prosecutor’s extensive investigation in an attempt to derail the process. One of the last challenges to the investigation by the Lundin Energy executives prior to the indictment was their claim that their fair trail rights were being violated under the European Convention of Human Rights due to the length of the then-ongoing investigation by the prosecution into the alleged crimes. An opinion filed by Ambassador Stephen Rapp on behalf of The Docket argued for the dismissal of this claim, highlighting how similar cases show that the seriousness of the allegations and the complexity of the investigation mean the length of the prosecution’s investigation has not been unreasonable.

In August 2021, the Supreme Court of Sweden rejected Lundin Energy executives’ claim that their right to a fair trial “within a reasonable time” has been violated which allowed for the investigation to continue and led to the indictment shortly after