The Sudanese people suffered enormously during this time. An estimated 12,000 people died and 160,000 people were displaced. In many ways this suffering is ongoing, as survivors who did flee haven’t been able to return to their homes or learn about the fate of their loved ones.
It is the contravention of the laws of war that Lundin’s leadership is accused of violating. It is noteworthy too, that the individuals are not accused of carrying out the alleged crimes themselves, but rather, that they were complicit in the war crimes of others. As the Chief Public Prosecutor Krister Petersson has stated, ‘what constitutes complicity in a criminal sense is that they made these demands [for Sudanese regime forces to secure their exploration zone] despite understanding or, in any case being indifferent to’ the military and the militia carrying out grave violations of international humanitarian law.
That companies should uphold international humanitarian law when doing business in conflict-affected areas is perhaps a truism to many. However, this latest indictment of a leading Swedish business by Swedish prosecutors is a stark reminder of the personal and professional risks of doing business in a conflict zone, as well as the relevance of this legal framework to corporate actors.
We have heard firsthand from leading Australian companies about the need for greater awareness of international humanitarian law. The increase in the number and complexity of armed conflicts, and the continued globalisation of supply chains and operations, means that businesses working in these complex environments are exposed to unique operational, reputational and legal risks. It follows that corporate leadership and risk-management in conflict-affected areas demand a nuanced understanding of the risks, rights and responsibilities under all relevant international legal frameworks, including international humanitarian law.
Today, businesses are more aware of their human rights responsibilities than ever before. Some businesses have adopted corporate policies that align with initiatives like the UN Global Compact and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to ensure their operations respect human rights. However, although the business world has started to refine its approach to working in conflict-affected areas, a growing familiarity with human rights law does not equate to a commitment to comply with international humanitarian law.
We wanted to ensure that businesses operating in conflict-affected areas have the knowledge and tools they need to align internal policies and processes with international humanitarian law – not only for themselves, but for the communities in which they operate. Overwhelmingly, civilians are the main victims of armed conflict and they are better protected when parties to the conflict, and others caught up in the fighting, understand and respect international humanitarian law.
There is also a need to educate the next generation of business leaders in this critical, but often misunderstood body of law. To this end, we share an exciting new online learning experience: ‘War, Law and Business: A module on international humanitarian law for future business leaders’.
War, Law and Business is an immersive experience designed for business students, but equally valuable to students in law and other disciplines. More than a traditional e-training module, this interactive simulation places the learner in the shoes of the CEO of a global extractives company and asks them to make a series of decisions to navigate their way through a precarious legal and ethical dilemma in a conflict-affected area in which it operates.
To find out more, we invite you to view this short trailer: