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Sweden: Oil executives on trial over Sudan war crimes

September 5, 2023

Two former executives at a Swedish oil firm face accusations of complicity in war crimes in present-day South Sudan. The case is expected to be the biggest in Sweden's history.

 A young boy showing signs of malnutrition wanders amidst ruins in Rumbek's central market, 21 January 2004.
A young boy amid ruins caused by a 2001 government raid in what is now South SudanImage: Edward Parsons/AFP/Getty Images

The former CEO of Swedish oil company Lundin Oil, now known as Orron Energy, is going on trial together with the firm's ex-vice president in Stockholm on Tuesday, with both defendants accused of complicity in war crimes committed in Sudan under the regime of Omar al-Bashir.

The two men, Swede Ian Lundin and Swiss national Alex Schneiter, have denied wrongdoing. They risk life sentences if found guilty.

The Swedish government had to grant consent for a foreign national to be indicted for crimes committed in another country. However, the Swedish court system can generally prosecute such crimes.

The trial follows a 13-year investigation culminating in findings over 80,000 pages. Closing arguments are expected to be delivered in February 2026.  

What are the defendants accused of?

The alleged crimes occurred between 1999 and 2003, with the two men accused of asking the Sudanese government to put its military in charge of security at one of Lundin Oil's exploration fields in 1999 in South Sudan.

Prosecutors say this later led to "aerial bombardments from transport planes, shooting civilians from helicopter gunships, abducting and plundering civilians and burning entire villages and their crops."

They argue that the two former executives were complicit because they knew Sudan's government would take control of the area by "military force."

"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 forbidden according to international humanitarian law," chief public prosecutor Krister Petersson said.

War-torn region

The alleged crimes occurred after Lundin Oil struck oil in 1999 in the "Block 5A" field. Sudan waged war for decades in South Sudan, which won its independence in 2011. 

Former President Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan between 1989 and 2019, is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for genocide and other war crimes.

Prosecutors have asked to confiscate 2.4 billion kronor (€202 million, $218 million) from Orron Energy. That amount is equivalent to the company's profit on selling its Sudan operations in 2003.

tj/dj (AFP, Reuters)