- The Canadian oil company Talisman Energy is set to face charges of "complicity in genocide and war crimes" in a US court due to its past engagements in southern Sudan. The Presbyterian Church of Sudan is challenging the company, claiming its operations had fuelled an "oil war" in the region that victimised "hundreds of thousands" of people.
Talisman Energy, a Canadian oil company, "must face charges of complicity in genocide and war crimes in a federal District Court in New York," according to a statement released today by the US law firm of Berger & Montague, representing the alleged victims in southern Sudan. On 27 August, a New York had denied Talisman Energy's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
The complaint, filed by the Presbyterian Church of Sudan and other alleged "victims of the oil war in southern Sudan" claim that Talisman, in an "unholy alliance with the Islamic government of Sudan, committed genocide and war crimes in connection with the exploration and extraction of oil in southern Sudan."
The plaintiffs seek disgorgement of Talisman's revenues from its Sudan operations as "compensation for hundreds of thousands of victims forced to flee their homes and left in despair without food, water, shelter, or medical care as a result of the strategic plan by Talisman and the government of Sudan to use helicopter gunships and high altitude bombing to depopulate areas around the oil fields," the US law firm says.
The Presbyterian Church of Sudan originally had filed its lawsuit against Talisman in 2001, but there has until now been disagreement over the New York court's jurisdiction in the case. Friday's ruling means that the Canadian oil company cannot avoid to have the charges proven in a US court. The United States have a much tougher stance on Sudan than Canadian authorities.
Since the case was filed in 2001, Talisman has ended its controversial operations in Sudan. One and a half year ago, Talisman sold its Sudan holdings to ONGC Videsh Ltd, an Indian state-run oil company. According to the company itself, Talisman thus achieved US$ 1.2 billion for its 25 percent stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project, making a large profit after four years of involvement.
Oil developments in southern Sudan have been controversial since they started as they were observed to fuel and prolong the war between North and South Sudan. Many credible human rights reports from the oil-rich region have suggested that oil companies were followed by the Sudanese army, which emptied the area of its population.
For Talisman, the four-year engagement in Sudan was profitable but a major blow to its international image. "Shareholders have told me they were tired of continually having to monitor and analyse events relating to Sudan," Talisman President Jim Buckee confessed as the company pulled out of the war-torn country in late 2002. The company's shares had suffered heavily from the engagement.
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