The distinguished and authoritative Human Rights Watch has just issued its annual human rights assessment, and the report on Sudan reveals yet again the destructiveness of oil development in southern regions. Meticulous in its research, scrupulously balanced, the Human Rights Watch account is a devastating indictment of Talisman Energy’s business partner, the Government of Sudan.
Eric Reeves [December 8, 2000]
Northampton, MA 01063
The Human Rights Watch Report is especially valuable because it is impartial in its criticism of the warring sides in Sudan’s ongoing conflict. Human rights abuses by the opposition forces, chiefly the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), are rendered cogently and untendentiously. The focus is appropriately on diversion of civilian food aid by which the SPLA supports itself in the field, and underage military recruitment (for which the Khartoum regime is also cited).
But no one reading this report will be under any illusion as to which is the overwhelmingly culpable party in Sudan’s civil war. The Government of Sudan, the National Islamic Front, receives—appropriately—far and away the most, and the harshest, criticism. There is only one side in the conflict that is engaged in the aerial bombardment of innocent civilians and humanitarian workers; there is only one side that is engaged in massive scorched-earth warfare to secure the southern oil regions. And that party is the business partner of Talisman Energy.
This Canadian oil company—as Amnesty International also asserted in its report on Sudan and oil development (May 2000)—is complicit in massive human rights violations. It is also responsible for sending revenues to Khartoum for huge military expenditures, expenditures which end up taking an increasingly horrific toll on civilians in the south. Investors in Talisman Energy should assess their investment accordingly.
Some representative excerpts from the Human Rights Watch report on Sudan (URL for full text appears below):
“[T]he government stepped up its brutal expulsions of southern villagers from the oil production areas and trumpeted its resolve to use the oil income for more weapons. Under the leadership of President (Lt. Gen.) Omar El Bashir, the government intensified its bombing of civilian targets in the war, denied relief food to needy civilians, and abused children’s rights, particularly through its military and logistical support for the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which held an estimated 6,000 Ugandan children captive on government-controlled Sudanese territory.”
“Fighting spread further into the southern area of Western Upper Nile, inhabited mainly by the African Nuer. The government continued its campaign of creating a cordon sanitaire around new oil fields by forcibly displacing the Nuer population. In addition to aerial bombardment and scorched-earth attacks by government troops, the government armed Nuer proxies to fight against anti-government Nuer. The government routinely banned U.N. relief aircraft from Western Upper Nile on security grounds, although its military campaigns produced tens of thousands of freshly displaced civilians, who were burned and looted out of their homes by pro-government Nuer militia and the government army.”
“The government announced that its new oil revenue, constituting 20 percent of its 2000 revenue, would be used for defense, including an arms factory near Khartoum. Defense spending in dollars increased 96 percent from 1998 to 2000. Not coincidentally, government use of air power and bombing increased.”
“In July, 250 [Government of Sudan] bombs hit civilians and their infrastructure in the attacks, which set a new high, according to conservative calculations based on U.N. relief reports. In August, government forces stepped up targeting of relief, health, and school facilities, apparently aiming to deter or shut down the U.N.-led humanitarian operation in the south, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). And despite promises to stop the bombing in September, more government bombs in October hit Catholic church facilities in different locations in Equatoria.”
“Torture and impunity remained a government policy. Security forces continued a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and persecution targeting political opponents and human rights defenders by means of arbitrary searches and arrests, followed by incommunicado and protracted arbitrary detention without judicial review.”
[Full report at: http://www.hrw.org/hrw/wr2k1/africa/sudan.html]