Colombia: Peoples’ Permanent Tribunal holds hearing on Oil Companies

Colombia: Peoples’ Permanent Tribunal holds hearing on Oil Companies

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August 10, 2007

The Peoples’ Permanent Tribunal (PPT), an independent non-governmental body that examines and judges complaints regarding violations of human rights as submitted by the victims themselves (or their representatives)—recently held a hearing against the Oil Industry in Colombia.

On August 3rd and 4th, the Panel of 130 Judges gathered in Bogota, receiving testimony from nearly 400 People with regard to the actions of Repsol-YPF, Occidental and British Petroleum, and the Colombian state-owned oil company.

The Judges concluded: “The Tribunal –which is non-binding- believes that there are reasonable grounds to qualify a great number of specific acts of murder, torture, forced displacement of people and persecution, submitted before it as crimes against humanity in that they were widespread and systematic acts against the civilian population.”

They added, “Oil corporations that violate human and environmental rights become silent or open murderers and act with impunity because they are acting against the rule of law and they benefit from the armed conflict.”

The judgment will be handed to the Oil Companies, as well as the Government.

The PPT was itself founded in June 1979, succeeding the ‘Russell Tribunals’ –the International War Crimes Tribunal which held two sessions in 1967 to expose the war crimes committed against the Vietnamese people.

It has since rendered over 30 judgments–Among them, for crimes committed in Tibet, the Philippines, Algeria, Armenia, andBhopal.

From Real World Radio – Nearly 400 people participated in the trial, mainly from Colombian areas affected by the operations of oil transnational corporations. Representatives from the international network Linking Alternatives, were also present in the hearing. The network gathers more than 80 groups from Europe and Latin America.

The communities affected said that Occidental Petroleum, Repsol and British Petroleum have taken the natural resources of the country and are part of the systematic violence against the people. There have been murderes, persecution of community leaders and human rights violations, which have caused the destruction of the rural social network that affects the peasant and indigenous communities.

The plaintiffs added that the three companies have pressured the Colombian state and have the support of Alvaro Uribe’s military and of paramilitary groups that look after their interests.

“There are more and more reports and evidence against the oil companies for being the direct responsible for environmental crimes by polluting the soil, rivers and seas, for the loss of forests and biodiversity, for attacking the economic, social and cultural rights of the local population where they operate, displacing people and generating thousands of social and environmental refugees, affecting their food sovereignty and endangering the survival of cultures and entire populations”.

The judges accuse Occidental Petroleum, Repsol and British Petroleum and state-owned Colombian company Ecopetrol of promoting the exploration and exploitation that leads to the forced displacement of communities; for reaching agreements with armed groups and with paramilitary commands, for persecuting leaders and for failing to carry out environmental impact studies.

They blame the Colombian state of failing to protect the political, social and trade union activists and for failing to investigate the murders and crimes against humanity.

In the recommendations of the ruling the judges ask the International Criminal Court to stop delaying the analysis of human rights violations in Colombia and urge the attorneys, prosecutors and judges to play “an active role in the pursuit of genuine justice”. Finally, the judges express deep concern over the lack of protection of the people who fight for human rights in Colombia and especially of community representatives that filed the claim before the Tribunal. (source)

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