Report: Oil Companies Involved in Sudan’s Human Rights Abuses

Published March 15th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

In a report published on Thursday, Christian Aid calls on foreign oil companies to immediately suspend their operations in Sudan, and for oil giants BP and Shell to divest their shares in companies whose parent corporation is complicit in atrocities in Sudan. 

Christian Aid introduces itself as an agency of the churches in the UK and Ireland. It works ”wherever the need is greatest, regardless of religion. It works through local organizations that understand local needs, as well as giving help on the ground through 16 overseas offices,” according to the organization’s website. 

The CA says it has worked for 30 years in Sudan as a human rights watchdog. It claims major human rights violations, in which oil majors are indirectly involved. 

As pressure grows for an international divestment campaign, The scorched earth: oil and war in Sudan, presents “eyewitness testimony” claiming that that Sudanese government forces and sponsored militias are mounting a systematic ‘scorched earth’ strategy in and around the oilfields where foreign companies operate.  

‘Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and displaced by a systematic policy of depopulating the oil-rich areas,’ says Mark Curtis, Christian Aid’s head of policy. ‘Each time an oil concession is developed, it is accompanied by massive human rights violations.  

‘Lundin, Talisman and other foreign oil companies operating in Sudan should immediately suspend operations until an agreement for a just and last peace is achieved. After numerous authoritative reports demonstrating the scale of the disaster, they cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being carried out in the name of oil, demanded the organization. 

‘Just as Shell had to accept some responsibility in Nigeria, so companies operating in Sudan must accept that under current conditions, they, too, are complicit.’ 

This report follows BP’s refusal last week to accept shareholder resolutions questioning its 2.2 percent holding in PetroChina. PetroChina operates in Tibet and is indirectly linked to Sudan through its parent corporation, the Chinese state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which is a major operator in an oil area of intense human rights violations. Shareholders and institutional investors in the US and Canada, in a campaign reminiscent of South Africa divestment, are pressuring Talisman. Two weeks ago the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest its Talisman shares. 

Oil giants BP and Shell have an indirect stake in Sudan through their investments in two CNPC subsidiaries. The report argues that the ‘firewall’ which BP says has been erected to prevent funds from moving from PetroChina and Sinopec to the parent company, CNPC, is not guaranteed given the secretive nature of Chinese-owned companies.  

Mark Curtis says: ‘We believe that BP is risking its reputation through its association with CNPC. Christian Aid calls on BP and Shell to divest their holdings and on the UK government to introduce legislation to ensure that British transnationals are not directly or indirectly complicit in human rights violations.’ 

British companies directly involved in multi-million contracts in Sudan include: Rolls Royce (engines for the pipeline and engineers) and Weir of Glasgow (pumps for pumping stations). 

Since the completion of the oil pipeline two years ago, Sudan has become a net oil exporter – earning enough to pay for the estimated $1 million a day it spends on the war. Sudan’s 18-year civil war, in which two million people have died, is now fuelled by oil revenues. Fighting in the oil areas has become not just a battle between the government and the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), but a bitter oil war over control of the country’s natural resources. Recent fighting between militias, as well as the government’s refusal to allow aid flights into the affected areas, has heightened the humanitarian disaster – 


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