An official investigation has been launched after a report
alleging Sudan war crimes by Swedish firm Lundin Petroleum. The
Swedish foreign minister was on Lundin's board at the time under
Swedish public prosecutor Magnus Elving launched a formal
investigation Monday sparked by allegations that an oil consortium
led by Swedish firm Lundin Petroleum may have been complicit in "war
crimes and crimes against humanity" in Sudan. The case, which has
links to Sweden's foreign minister, has raised questions about
international obligations of companies to safeguard human rights in
The investigation into the alleged activity, which occurred
between 1997 and 2003, resulted from a recent report by the European
Coalition on Oil in Sudan, or ECOS, a group of 50 European NGOs.
The ECOS report argues that "the home governments of Lundin
[Sweden], Petronas [Malaysia] and OMV [Austria] have failed in their
international obligations to prevent human rights violations and
international crimes." It further charges that the consortium "may
have been complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes
ECOS hopes the criminal investigation in Sweden will have a far-
Percy Bratt, who is representing ECOS, says that one of the
group's goals in producing the report is the establishment of
effective "limits for companies working in these types of conflict
areas with regimes that are committing human rights violations."
ECOS has also stated that it wants to push each country to speak
with one voice on human rights.
"You have this strange incoherence in the policies of many
countries where one part of the Foreign Ministry is promoting
respect for human rights, and another part of the Foreign Ministry
is promoting international trade and investment, and they don't seem
to know each other," says ECOS Coordinator Egbert Wesselink.
In some parts of the world, he says, many companies are
effectively working in a legal void because there is no functioning
legal system. He points to the enforcement of national laws by these
firms' home countries - particularly in regards to humanitarian and
human rights law - as a remedy. Mr. Wesselink notes that such
mechanisms are already in place, citing the Rome Statute and the
International Criminal Court, but says "this idea has to be
transferred to corporations and the people leading them."
As for Sudan's victims, Wesselink points to international law on
civil remedies and the precedent set in Bosnia, where an
international commission was set up to compensate victims. He
further noted the Sudanese Constitution states that the signatories
to the oil agreements - the oil companies and the Sudanese
government - are responsible for providing compensation.
The problems cited in the report began, ECOS charges, when the
Lundin Consortium signed a 1997 agreement with Sudan's government
for the exploitation of oil in an area where the government lacked
"full control. …