STOCKHOLM (AP) — Two executives of a Swedish oil exploration and production company went on trial Tuesday in Stockholm for securing the company's operations in Sudan through their alleged complicity in war crimes in 20 years ago.
Swedish prosecutors claim that former Lundin Oil chairman Ian Lundin and the company's former CEO, Alex Schneiter supported the Sudanese government of former dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in an April 2019 popular uprising.
The two executives are accused of involvement in the Sudanese government's military campaign to clear an area in southern Sudan for oil production. The campaign "entailed the Sudanese military and regime-allied militia systematically attacking civilians or at least carrying out systematic attacks in violation of the principles of distinction and proportionality," the prosecutors said.
Lundin told reporters at the Stockholm District Court that the accusations were “completely false.”
“We look forward to defending ourselves in court,” he said.
The trial is expected to run until early 2026.
A 1983-2005 civil war between the Muslim-dominated north and Christian south tore Sudan apart. A separate conflict in Darfur, the war-scarred region of western Sudan, began in 2003. Thousands of people were killed and nearly 200,000 displaced.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 to become the world’s youngest nation.
Swedish prosecutors said the Sudanese government conducted offensive military operations in the Block 5A oil field and its vicinity in southern Sudan between May 1999 and March 2003 to gain control of areas for oil prospecting and to create the necessary conditions for oil extraction, the prosecution said.
During the military operations, severe violations of international humanitarian law were committed, it said.
In a statement, the prosecution said Lundin and Schneiter “participated in the conclusion" of an agreement involving a right to search for and extract oil in a larger area in southern Sudan "in exchange for the payment of fees and a share in future profits."
Lundin was the operator of a consortium of companies exploring Block 5A, including Malaysia’s Petronas Carigali Overseas, OMV (Sudan) Exploration GmbH of Austria, and the Sudanese state-owned oil company Sudapet Ltd.
The prosecution wants the executives barred from conducting business activities for 10 years and the Swedish company fined 3 million kronor ($272,250). They also want 1.4 billion kronor ($127 million) confiscated from Lundin Oil because of economic benefits that were achieved from the alleged crimes.
In Sweden, the maximum penalty for complicity in war crimes is a life prison sentence, which generally means a minimum of 20 to 25 years. Prosecutors typically request the punishment they want for a conviction at the end of trials.