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Sudan war crime trial of former oil firm executives starts in Sweden

Prosecutors say ex-chair and CEO were complicit in atrocities by Sudanese army and militias, which both deny

Protesters burn tyres in Khartoum in 2021. Former president Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the international criminal court in The Hague for genocide. [AFP | Getty Images]

Two former executives of a Swedish oil company have gone on trial in Stockholm, accused of complicity in war crimes in Sudan between 1999 and 2003 – charges they both deny.

Ian Lundin, a Swede, and Alex Schneiter, a Swiss national, are accused of asking Sudan’s government to make its military responsible for security at the site of one of Lundin Oil’s exploration fields, which later led to aerial bombings, killing of civilians and burning of entire villages, according to the prosecution.

Arriving in court, Lundin, the company’s former chair, said he and Schneiter, the former chief executive, were looking “forward to defending ourselves”.

“This has been a very long process, we have had this case hanging over us for 14 years, today it’s the first day of the trial and it will be a very long trial,” he told reporters at Stockholm district court. “We look forward to defending ourselves in a court of law and we believe also that we will receive a fair trial.”

The trial is expected to take about two and a half years, concluding in early 2026. The 61 witnesses from around the world will include experts, Lundin employees, former UN staff and the former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, who sat on Lundin Oil’s board from 2001 until becoming foreign minister in 2006.

Bildt, who was questioned by prosecutors in 2015, told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that it was “highly bizarre that it took a quarter of a century to arrive at something”.

The prosecution is being run by the national unit against organised crime and is expected to present its case from Thursday until 8 November.

Prosecutors say the then Lundin Oil – now known as Orrön Energy – asked Khartoum to secure a potential oilfield in what is now South Sudan, knowing this would mean seizing the area by force.

This made the executives complicit in war crimes that were then carried out by the Sudanese army and allied militia against civilians, according to the 2021 indictment.

The prosecution agency said then that the men were involved in actions that contravened international law.

“What constitutes complicity in a criminal sense is that they made these demands despite understanding or, in any case being indifferent to, the military and the militia carrying out the war in a way that was forbidden according to international humanitarian law,” the agency said in 2021.

The company and Schneiter have denied the allegations.

Prosecutors in 2021 also filed a claim to confiscate 1.4bn krona (£100m) from the company, corresponding to profits from the sale of the Sudan business in 2003.

Last week, Orrön Energy – the company’s name since 2022 when it sold its oil and gas operations to Norway’s Aker BP in £11bn deal – said prosecutors had increased the claim to 2.4bn krona.

The company has said it will contest the claim.

Sweden launched the investigation in 2010 following a report on the company’s presence in Sudan by the Dutch non-governmental organisation PAX.

Sudan waged war for decades in South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, and elsewhere in the country. The former president Omar al-Bashir, who ruled between 1989 and 2019, is wanted by the international criminal court in The Hague for genocide and other alleged war crimes, which he denies.


(c) 2023, The Guardian


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