Skip to comments.Report: Document shows Canadian oil group asked Sudan army to 'remove' villagers [Sudan Watch]
Posted on 03/24/2002 7:06:35 AM PST by Fitzcarraldo
NEW YORK (AP) -- Talisman Energy, the Canadian oil company operating in war-torn Sudan, asked the Khartoum government in 1999 to remove villagers from the vicinity of its oil properties, according to what is claimed to be a Sudanese government document, a report said Friday.
The Financial Times newspaper said the directive, which ordered the armed forces to "conduct cleaning up operations" in all villages in the area, is dated May 7, 1999, two days before the Khartoum regime launched one of the largest military offensives of the brutal 20-year civil war.
The document will be considered by a New York district court as part of a class action lawsuit brought against Talisman Energy and the government of Sudan by residents of southern Sudan, who say they have been hurt by the government's military actions.
The case is being considered under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreigners to sue in U.S. courts over violations of human rights and other international laws.
Human rights groups, as well as investigations by the Canadian government and United Nations missions, have said oil drilling in Sudan by foreign companies is exacerbating a war that has already claimed about 2 million lives, mostly from war-related famine.
Government troops and militia forces have destroyed villages and displaced about 200,000 people in the western upper Nile region of Sudan where the oilfields are located, witnesses and human rights groups say.
Rebel forces hostile to the Khartoum regime control most of the region near the oilfields.
Talisman has denied any complicity with the actions by government forces fighting the rebels, and points to its long record in bringing wells, hospitals and electricity to the region.
The company, which was given a copy of the document this week by plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said its lawyers were still trying to determine its source and authenticity. But Barry Nelson, a Talisman spokesman, was quoted by the newspaepr as saying: "We can emphatically say that the suggestions in the alleged memo run contrary to everything that Talisman practices and believes in in Sudan."
Since the opening in 1999 of a 1,600-mile (2,575-kilometer) pipeline connecting Sudan's oilfields to the Red Sea, the country's oil income has risen to an estimated Dollars 500m annually. That has allowed the Khartoum government to finance independently a war estimated to cost it Dollars 1m a day.
This is, without a doubt, the worst situation in the world today. Hell isn't hot enough for these morally-challenged businessmen who assist in the genocide of these Sudanese Christians.
Monday March 25, 6:52 pm Eastern Time
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, March 25 (Reuters) - Talisman Energy Inc. (Toronto:TLM.TO - news) said on Monday it does not know the origin of a memo that human rights groups say shows the Canadian oil producer asked Sudan's army in 1999 to remove villages near its oil facilities in the war-torn African country.
The company, which denies any wrongdoing in Sudan's 18-year civil war, said it cannot tell if the one-page memo in Arabic is even an authentic government document because it was written on plain paper with an unreadable signature.
``There's no letterhead, the signature is just a scrawl so there's no attribution,'' said spokesman David Mann, adding that the company was still studying a faxed copy of the memo it received last week. He added that Talisman takes the issue ``very seriously.''
Human rights groups have filed the document as evidence in U.S. federal court in a lawsuit alleging Talisman has conspired with the Sudanese government in ethnic cleansing that killed or removed non-Muslim civilians living in proximity to Sudan's oil production regions.
More than 2 million people have died in the war, either directly in fighting or indirectly from hunger and disease exacerbated by the conflict. Rebels have been fighting for greater autonomy for the mostly Christian and animist south from the mostly Muslim north.
Calgary-based Talisman, one of Canada's biggest oil companies, has a 25 percent stake in Sudan's only major oil producing project, which pumps out more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day.
According to published reports, the memo labeled ``secret'' ordered military action at the company's request to ``ensure the security'' of its property and its employees -- including the elimination of villages near the oil fields.
``Our response to date has been that the allegations in this, and I'll call it an alleged memo, really run contrary to everything we have practiced in Sudan,'' Mann said.
Talisman's critics say it has prolonged Sudan's civil war by providing revenue to the government, but the company maintains it has tried to improve the situation with projects such as building schools, hospitals and roads.
A Sudanese rebel leader said on Monday fighters will continue to attack oil installations in the center of the country despite an agreement to protect civilians and civilian targets that the government had interpreted as saying the installations were off limits.