Report written by Andy Higginbottom based on documents supplied by, and in consultation with, Marta Hinestroza. 30th January 2003
Colombia Solidarity Campaign
PO Box 8446
London N17 6NZ
Table of Contents
1. BACKGROUND 1
2. GEOGRAPHY 2
3. GENERAL IMPACT OF THE PIPELINES 3
4. SECURITY PROBLEMS 3
4.1 Guerrilla Attacks on the Pipelines 4
4.2 Security Corridor 4
4.3 Growing Paramilitary Presence 4
5. THE INHABITANTS RESPONSE 5
6. COMPENSATION AND WORKS 6
7. BP’s INVOLVEMENT AND RESPONSIBILITY 7
7.1 BP’s Involvement 7
7.2 BP’s Corporate Policies 7
7.3 BP Benefits From Colombian Oil 8
7.4 BP’s Corporate Structure: Accountability and Responsibility 8
8. THE PEASANT’S CLAIM 8
8.1 Claim Methodology 8
8.2 Estimate of the Value of the Claim 9
Annex 1: Marta Hinestroza Interview "What use am I to anyone dead?" 10
Annex 2: Letter to BP Exploration (Colombia) Limited 30th January 2003 12
Annex 3: Letter to OCENSA 30th January 2003 13
The company Oleoducto de Colombia S.A. (ODC) was formed in 1989 with the object of constructing and operating an oil pipeline from a pumping station in Vasconia, in Puerto Boyacá which is on the Magdalena Medio river, to the Caribbean port of Coveñas. ODC was formed by the state oil corporation Ecopetrol, in association with various multinational partners including: Hocol S.A. (USA via Cayman Islands); Esso Colombiana Limited (USA); British Petroleum (UK); LASMO (UK); ELF (France) and Total Pipeline (France). ODC carried out technical-economic studies to determine the route of the pipeline, design its size and the location of pumping stations along the route, and then it started building. The 480 km pipeline was built between 1990 and 1991. It had a diameter of 0.6 metres and a capacity of 150,000 barrels a day.
Another company, Oleoducto Central S.A. (OCENSA) was formed on 14th December 1994, again by Ecopetrol in conjunction with five multinationals: Total Pipeline Colombia (France); BP Colombia Pipelines Limited (UK); Triton Pipeline Colombia Inc. (Cayman Islands); TCPL International Investments Inc (Canada) and IPL Enterprises (Colombia) Inc (Grand Canary). This pipeline was to run parallel with the ODC pipeline between Vasconia and Coveñas, with a further extension to bring the crude from the Cusiana and Cupiagua oilfields which lay further to the east, in Casanare department. The total length of the OCENSA pipeline was to be 699 km.
This second longer pipeline crosses 6 Departments, 40 Municipalities and 192 Villages. The full scope of the environmental and human problems it has caused have not been researched, and can only be indicated by this damages claim, which comes from some of the peasant families from just two of the 40 Muncipalities affected.
To link Casanare with Vasconia in the Magdalena valley, the OCENSA pipeline crosses the eastern Andes range, a zone of Humid Tropical Forest, with great biodiversity with various uses to agriculture, forestry and fishing. This zone is medium and high, with average temperatures at 24 degrees and rainfall between 1,500 mm and 2,500 mm per annum.
Coveñas lies in the Caribbean Region which is marked by Dry Tropical Forest.
The claimants live in the municipalities of Zaragoza and Segovia, in north-east Antioquia. This area is towards the northern end of the Cauca river is known as the "Lower Cauca". It is in Antioquia Department administratively, while geographically it is part of the Caribbean climate zone. In this area there is a high degree of human intervention, above all cattle, fishing and mining for gold. The ground undulates and is characterised by a series of small hills. The average temperature is 30 degrees. Rainfall is between 1,000 and 2,200 mm per annum. The pipelines pass through the eastern side of Antioquia, nearby lie the protected forests of the San Lucas mountains, the biggest forest reserve in the centre of the country.
Around Zaragoza and Segovia there is a great abundance of water resources. The Pocuné and Juan Vara streams, and the Itë, Tigui, Cuturú and Cacerí rivers all flow into the Nechí river, which feeds the Cauca river which in turn joins the great Magdalena river further north. There are many springs, and it is common for each farm to have several springs and wells that are often used for fisheries.
According to the Basic Study1 carried out in 1988 the soils are acidic with an excess of aluminium and of low, medium and high fertility, wet for most of the year. There is a range of textures, and various minerals are present. There is a predominance of kaolin clay, which is a characteristic of Tropical Wet Forest.
The undulating hills are well drained, but poor in nutrients for plants. This is a reason for the mixed economic activity typical of the peasants in this region, including raising farm animals, mining and fisheries as well as crop cultivation.
3. GENERAL IMPACT OF THE PIPELINES
The construction of the first pipeline, ODC, caused innumerable damages to the environment as well as to the livelihood of those working farms along its length. The farmers were generally peasants living by their own labour and with scant resources. This damage was not put right and was then further aggregated by the construction of the second pipeline, OCENSA.
The pipelines run across land used for cattle and some harvested crops, such as yucca and plantain, as well as the natural forest. All vegetation was stripped away along the actual corridor of the pipelines when they were built. There has been some works and new growth, but not to the original state. However this superficial loss has not been the greatest damage. The greatest damage has been due to the destruction of the water system supplying the farms.
The pipelines were laid along the ridges of the undulating land. This has had a particularly detrimental effect on the water sources and the subterranean water courses. It is estimated that some 150 water sources have been destroyed in the Zaragoza stretch of the pipelines alone. Without the water supplies it is impossible to carry out economic activity on any of the farms. On some occasions the earth movements in constructing the pipelines have caused avalanches, covering up the springs completely. Streams have been diverted to different routes, destroying all in their way. In many sections the ground has been shifted, with ruts and gullies of different sizes opening up. This is especially true in the more sloping sections, which lost their vegetation. The great majority of the remaining water sources continue to show signs of sedimentation, the water is yellow and contains many particles and is unfit for agricultural, fisheries, animal or human use.
For example, the ODC pipeline destroyed the supply of water to the hamlet of El Saltillo, and no replacement was offered. Similarly the water supply of another hamlet, La Porquera, was contaminated due to the accumulation of earth from the construction phase.
Situations such as these have forced many of the peasants to move off their farms, with the social consequences of being uprooted, the search for work, the situation for their childrens’ education and many other socio-economic problems because they have lost the use of their land.
The majority of the peasants farmers in Zaragoza, and some of the Segovia peasants, have title to their land through the state’s INCORA land reform programme. For ODC and OCENSA to pass their pipelines through these lands they also had to get permission from INCORA. This state body only authorised use of a 10 metre wide strip of land, although in practice the pipeline companies interpreted this as 10 metres either side of the line and took a 20 metre corridor as there working area.
4. SECURITY PROBLEMS
As well as the overall problem of displacement due to the environmental damage and loss of water supplies, there have been serious security problems for the peasants that the pipelines have brought in their wake.
4.1 Guerrilla Attacks on the Pipelines
Ever since the first ODC construction the ELN guerrillas (National Liberation Army, Colombia’s second biggest guerrilla movement) have considered the pipelines a military target. As a consequence the ELN have attempted to blow them up in protest against the state’s oil policy, which they consider grants too much to the oil multinationals without sufficient benefit to the Colombian people. In 1992 there was an attempt against the ODC pipeline at La Martana village, which is in Remedios near to Zaragoza. Six thousand barrels of oil were lost, ten locals died and the Itë river was polluted.
During the construction of the second pipeline (OCENSA), construction equipment was burnt, presumably by the ELN guerrillas, causing panic and persecution of the local people by the army. In consequence of another guerrilla action at the Laureles Farm, four members of the same family, including a three year old child, were burnt alive. Again there was environmental damage, this time polluting the Pocuné river. But an even worse tragedy took place in October 1998, in the village of Machuca in Segovia municipality where 80 villagers were burnt because the guerrillas had dynamited the pipeline on high ground and burning oil cascaded down on the village below.
4.2 Security Corridor
Even before the Segovia tragedy, the security of the pipeline was causing more and more problems for the peasants. In 1996 the Mayor of Zaragoza issued Decree No. 056 which stated that there would be a 6pm to 6am curfew for all inhabitants along the length of the pipeline, and that furthermore there would be a security border of 100 metres on either side of the pipeline. No economic activity could take place within this 200 metre wide corridor.
The peasants received no compensation for the loss of an area ten times wider than the construction had taken and twenty times wider than had been originally agreed. Mine workings that had not been destroyed by the loss of water were now caught in the security corridor and out of bounds. But the situation was even worse, with their farms cut in two, with controls over their crossing the pipeline, the peasants could not viably work what land was left to them. This was their ruination.
Rather than security, the intense army presence is a source of human rights violations. The peasants are treated badly, one woman has been raped, but the atmosphere of intimidation makes the peasants fearful of making open challenges to their treatment.
4.3 Growing Paramilitary Presence
As well the Colombian army maintaining absolute control over the 200 metre security corridor, a wider cordon has been thrown around the pipeline. Since about 1996, coincidentally the construction phase of the second pipeline and also the period when Alvaro Uribe Vélez as governor of Antioquia legalised the Convivir private security groups, the paramilitary AUC has extended its presence. The paramilitaries expanded from their strongholds in the far north of Antioquia and in parts of the Magdalena valley to the south. They now have a continuous presence along the length of the pipeline.
There is an area in South Bolivar, to the south east of Zaragoza and Segovia, where villagers have for the last two years lived under permanent paramilitary siege. The paramilitary presence in Zaragoza is today reported to be much more open than when the Colombia Solidarity Campaign’s investigation team visited there at the end of September 2001. The paramilitaries are cultivating fields of coca right on the edge of town. Within hours or at most days of a visit from OCENSA officials, the peasants raising the demand for adequate compensation who still live in the area will get a second visit from the paramilitaries.
5. THE INHABITANTS RESPONSE
Before the construction of the pipelines the peasant families in this region, as in most rural areas of Colombia, had been neglected by the Colombian state. They lacked basic public services. They had hoped that the construction of the pipelines would bring in their wake such riches for the country that social welfare would follow, that would indirectly compensate for their losses. But that has not happened. On the contrary, the peasants have received no benefit from the pipelines, only damage and loss of their lands, livelihoods and way of life.
With the bitter experience of the first pipeline, the communities through the local mayors expressed their concerns before the second pipeline was constructed:
- protection for water supplies and waterways
- improvement of public services
- permanent management programmes of the water microsystems
- conservation programmes for the road system
- health and sanitation programmes
- education programmes for the children and young people
- minimisation of immigration that big construction projects bring in their wake with the consequent problems of prostitution, unemployment, violence etc.
- disaster protection programmes and public education in these
- that local authorities use pipeline royalties according to priorities set by each community information to the communities on the amount and distribution of the royalties.
Although they are not represented in the legal claims being represented, another important factor is the impact of the pipeline on the Indigenous Reserves and Black Communities. According to Law 21 of 1991, which incorporates ILO Agreement 169, the indigenous community must be consulted, and according to Law 70 of 1993 the Black Community must be consulted. Although there is no indigenous reserve in Zaragoza, there are indigenous individuals, and there is an important black community – but they were not consulted.
Zaragoza’s ‘Defensoria del Pueblo’ (a local government officer roughly equivalent to an Ombudsman) made a series of recommendations on the socio-economic and environmental impact of the pipelines, but these were not taken into account.
The community of affected peasants in Zaragoza acted on their own behalf. Firstly they presented their complaints to the construction companies, with the local mayor and local government officers attending. Then they participated in a debate in Antioquia’s departmental Assembly. Without getting results from these representations, the peasants acted in desperation and in January 1997 they took direct action to block the construction of the OCENSA pipeline, demanding that ODC pay them all their damages. The response of the state security was harsh and the blockage only lasted 36 hours. ODC did not fulfil its commitments, and now the community deals with ODC through the intermediary of OCENSA.
The affected families took out a civil action case against OCENSA and presented a claim for injunction against the decree that had declared the security corridor. This last claim was rejected by the judicial authorities. The first action was terminated by the majority of the claimants, five years on from the original damage. Many of them were by then living in fear as unidentified men in dark screened vehicles began to patrol the area.
6. COMPENSATION AND WORKS
ODC paid some of the peasant farmers in Zaragoza up to 2 million pesos (£470) 2 for the use of a 10 metre wide strip across their land. ODC did not pay the Segovia peasants any compensation.
The basis of OCENSA’s compensation payments were likewise the right of use of the narrow strip. In contracts signed with BP Exploration (Colombia) Limited in 1995 and early 1996 the peasants agreed to the second pipeline having the usufruct of the land (servidumbre) for a 12.5 metre width3 along the length of pipeline passing through their land.
BP paid out to the peasants at the rate of $400 pesos per square metre for the servidumbre, equivalent to $400 x 12.5 = $5,000 pesos or £1.18 per metre of pipeline. Thus under these terms a farm through which the pipeline passed for 250 metres received 12.5m x 250m x 400 = 1,250,000 pesos (£294). Additional minor payments were made for damage to trees and other obvious damage within the 12.5 metre strip.
By1997 OCENSA was beginning to respond to pressure from the peasants for a better deal. In the three negotiations between OCENSA and peasant farmers that were attended by Marta Hinsetroza, formerly Zaragoza’s Defensoria who returned subsequently as an independent lawyer, the compensation payments were significantly higher, up to 20 million pesos (£4,705) in the case of one peasant whose land had a roadway built on it. Even so these payments were still far short of the full economic loss. Another response from OCENSA when they heard that a lawyer was beginning to act on behalf of the peasants was to quickly complete all their payments.
A few new water sources were engineered, but these were inadequate and did not replace the original facilities. And in some cases were completely exhausted by the construction workers exhausting them.
Along the corridor of the pipelines there have been some works to stop more earth movement. This is usually sacks of earth stacked into banks. Bit the peasants’ animals started to eat the synthetic polyester sacking, causing them to choke and die.
The pipeline construction companies have not completed their Reforestation and Revegetation programmes.
7. BP’s INVOLVEMENT AND RESPONSIBILITY
7.1 BP’s Involvement
As noted above BP was an original shareholder in both the ODC consortium (with 4.16% of shares)4 and the OCENSA consortium (with 15.2% of the shares)5. As a shareholder and board member of OCENSA BP carries legal responsibility.
But BP has had a much more direct involvement in the project than a passive shareholder. BP project managed the OCENSA project through its crucial initial stages. Even before the formation of OCENSA as a company, in 1994 had BP presented the application for an environmental licence for the proposed second pipeline to the Colombia’s Environment Ministry. BP also entered an application for forestry use, which was rejected by the state body INDERENA. In 1995 The Environment Ministry asked BP to supply more information in multiple aspects that had been missing in its original application.
The servidumbre contracts were made by BP and it was BP Exploration Colombia who signed the checks to pay the peasant farmers for use of the 12.5 metre strip of land.
Furthermore, BP has been heavily involved in setting up special security arrangements along the pipeline, as was revealed in the Guardian report of 17 October 1998. 6
7.2 BP’s Corporate Policies
BP in the UK has denied responsibility for the actions of OCENSA. However the same corporation claims on its website www.bp.com that:
" We believe that, wherever we operate, our activities should generate economic benefits and opportunities for an enhanced quality of life for those whom our business impacts; that our conduct should be a positive influence; that our relationships should be honest and open; and that we should be held accountable for our actions."
This is what we are asking, that BP be held accountable for its actions in Colombia. BP goes on:
"We are committed to:
- respecting the rule of law, conducting our business with integrity, and showing respect for human dignity and the rights of the individual wherever we do business
- creating mutual advantage in all our relationships so that people will trust us and want to do business with us
- demonstrating respect for the natural environment and work towards our goals of no accidents, no harm to people and no damage to the environment
- managing our financial performance to maximize long-term value for our shareholders
We expect everyone who works for BP to take responsibility for living up to these commitments."
7.3 BP Benefits From Colombian Oil
Almost all of BP’s production goes along the pipeline to export in the US market. It is high quality and valuable. The daily throughput from the Casanare fields is estimated conservatively at 300,000 barrels. Putting the value low at US $20 yields $6m or approximately £4m worth of oil passing along the pipeline every day. At these prices, the income from one week’s worth of oil would be sufficient to compensate the seven and more years of suffering inflicted on the peasants entering these claims.
7.4 BP’s Corporate Structure: Accountability and Responsibility
As we state in the letter to BP in Colombia (Annex 2):
"BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited is treated as a foreign company in Colombia, constituted as a branch of the BP Group based in the UK. There are no separate shareholders and so there is no separate public or shareholder reporting of its activities which are consolidated into the BP Group reports."
BP Group is the level at which results in Colombia are reported to shareholders and public, and at which publicity points are made to claiming successful operation. For example BP Group’s latest Annual Report asserts that:
"In Colombia, where we are a major oil producer, we have been closely involved with local people and local authorities in Casanare to ensure that the wealth generated by our production furthers the area’s economic and social development. These efforts include promoting a more open relationship with the security forces in this area of violent conflict. Our own security and success are inextricably linked with those of the community. Experience over more than a decade in Casanare has taught us that improving the well-being of local communities must go hand in hand with the development of any project."
The report makes no mention of the impact of BP’s activities for the peasant communities along its pipelines. The experience of the communities of Zaragoza and Segovia is that their well being has been destroyed and this is the responsibility of BP because BP led the project, is a significant shareholder and continues to benefit from the project.
8. THE PEASANT’S CLAIM
Many peasants effected by the pipelines have never been unable to meet the lawyers. Partly through fear of reprisals for entering a claim, and partly because the lawyers have been unable to stay in the area and meet potential clients. The area is now overrun by AUC paramilitaries, and the conditions of fear are such that it is impossible to form normal client lawyer relationships. The claims that have been entered therefore do not fully represent the scale of the losses in north-eastern Antioquia, let alone along other stretches of the pipelines.
8.1 Claim Methodology
There are claims against damage from the ODC pipeline and claims against damage from the OCENSA pipeline. Each claim is a combination of a number of elements at the level of the plot:
a) damage (daños) to property assets, such as crops, livestock, housing, mine facilities.
b) indexation of original damage loss to point in time that settlement is made. For the ODC pipeline this is from 1991 and for the OCENSA pipeline this is from 1995.
c) loss of commercial value of the property (depreciacion del inmueble) due to the passage of pipeline that is not covered by (a).
d) loss of income (lucro cesante) due to not being able to work all or part of the property. Note that the pipelines have disrupted the original water supplies in all the plots along their length. Some of the peasant farmers have been able to bring water in from alternative sources, in which case they have been able to continue working part of their land. In other cases there is no realistic alternative source and the peasants have been forced to quit their land altogether. This loss of income has been ongoing since 1991 from the ODC pipeline, and since 1995 from the OCENSA pipeline.
e) loss of projected accumulated value (intereses legales) is to compensate the proprietor for the loss of increasing value due to the normally accumulating efforts of working the land and maintaining the property.
There is a final element of the claim (perjuicios morales) to cover the personal psychological and emotional losses due to having lost home and land, of being afflicted with the consequent worries and traumas. According to established norms this demand has been set at the currency equivalent of 200 grammes of gold, valued at 27,000 pesos a gramme, (5,400,000 pesos / £1,270) per person per year.
8.2 Estimate of the Value of the Claim
The claims were entered at different times since 1998 in batches. The lawyers have advised us that there is a batch of claims about to be entered with the civil courts in Bogotá.
There are 40 peasant farm plots that are claiming compensation. To indicate the size of the damages, taking factors a) to e) above into account accumulated since the first impact, the level of compensation required to replace the accumulated losses on a typical farm is of the order of 400 million pesos (£91,000) at this time, that is approximately £3.6 million.
The claimants are also rightly demanding compensation for personal losses. On each farm there were on average 30 inhabitants, that is 1,200 in all. Their loss should be compensated at an estimated £38,000 per farm per year, that is approximately £1.5 million in total annually.
BP/OCENSA have only paid about one thousandth part of a just compensation to the peasants.
Annex 1: Marta Hinestroza Interview "What use am I to anyone dead?"
Lawyer Marta Hinestroza acts for farmers who say their livelihoods were ruined by a pipeline part-owned by BP. After death threats from paramilitaries, she’s had to flee Colombia. Jeremy Lennard reports
Wednesday December 18, 2002
Sitting at a table strewn with paperwork, Marta Hinestroza pulls the collar of her jacket up around her chin and shivers. The 37-year-old lawyer is a recent arrival from northwest Colombia, and looks mortified when she is told that London may get colder still as the winter drags on.
Hinestroza never imagined she would leave Colombia, but then she never imagined that her legal battles with British Petroleum, on behalf of peasant farmers who claim their livelihoods had been ruined by the construction of an oil pipeline, would lead, however indirectly, to death threats from paramilitary organisations. Nor did she imagine that these threats – which a spokesman in BP’s London office yesterday described as "a disgrace" – would eventually drive her out of her home country.
"When your work might make all the difference for more than 200 helpless and impoverished families, it is difficult to walk away," she says. "But in the end you have to ask, ‘What use am I to anyone dead?’"
The final straw came when, on a recent trip to visit her clients, she was told that her name had appeared on a paramilitary hit list. Hinestroza packed her bags, and her files, and with help from the London-based Colombia Solidarity Campaign, arrived in Britain last month with her 14-year-old daughter Mayra. While their asylum claim is being processed, they feel disorientated, wrenched from all that is familiar and, above all, cold; but they do at least feel safe.
Hinestroza’s decision to leave Colombia was not taken lightly. "I’d already had to move my office in the city because the people I shared with were frightened by the vile phone calls I was receiving," she says. "I’d only been in the new place a few days when they began again, and then a couple of very dodgy characters turned up on the doorstep."
The daughter of a miner and a seamstress, Hinestroza grew up in El Bagre, in the state of Antioquia. At the age of 12 she moved to the city of Medellin to complete her secondary education and stayed there to study law at university. Then, in 1991, just around the time she graduated, came an event that would have an untold effect on her life, and those of thousands of others.
Hundreds of kilometres away to the east, BP struck oil. More precisely, the company found itself sitting on reserves of about two billion barrels of high-grade crude. It was initially pumped through the Oleoducto de Colombia (ODC) pipeline, the construction of which had wreaked havoc with local eco-systems and made many farms along its route unworkable. Then, in 1995, a new company called Ocensa was set up – in which BP took a 15% stake – to construct and operate an 800km pipeline passing from the Cusiana-Cupiagua fields through four states, 40 municipalities and 192 villages to the port of Covenas in northwest Colombia. Following the original ODC route, the new pipeline passed through the municipality of Zaragosa, not far from Hinestroza’s hometown of El Bagre, and where she was employed as the local ombudsman.
It had been BP’s responsibility to obtain environmental licences for the pipeline, and to compensate farmers along its route for the loss of a 12-metre strip of land at a price of 400 Colombian pesos (at today’s exchange rate, about 10 pence) per square metre. But in Zaragosa alone, farmers claim, the construction of the pipeline destroyed hundreds of water sources and brought on landslides that ruined local farmers. Security was brought in to protect the pipeline from the guerrillas, who were angry at the fact that, far from improving the lot of local people, construction of the pipeline was making their lives a misery. An exclusion zone was enforced 100m either side of the pipeline. The farmers lost more land.
Hinestroza began to hear complaints from the likes of farmer Horacio Gaviria, who claims his land became unworkable without water sources and, because of its proximity to the pipeline, heavily militarised. He told her that 25 members of his family eventually abandoned their land and fled to Moravia, a shanty town built on a rubbish dump on the outskirts of Medellin. They now live in abject poverty, the children selling sweets and cigarettes on buses and at traffic lights instead of attending school.
As she investigated, it became clear that there were hundreds in Zaragosa and neighbouring Segovia who were unhappy. But Hinestroza did not stay long in her job. The construction of the Ocensa pipeline coincided with a surge of paramilitary activity in the region under the governorship of Alvaro Uribe, now the Colombian president. During 1995 and 1996, the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) went on the rampage, torturing and massacring civilians it accused of collaboration with the guerrillas.
Four of her colleagues – ombudsmen in neighbouring municipalities – were assassinated, and Hinestroza began to receive threats. The AUC turned up at the home of her aunt. They dragged her out, tied her hands behind her back and made her kneel down. Then, in front of the villagers, they shot her through the back of the head.
Hinestroza resigned, but continued to represent her clients. BP refused to pay further compensation. She says a Ocensa employee offered her £7,000 to drop her cases. The paramilitaries also had an offer – they would back off if she quietened down.
BP has since paid out £180,000 to 17 families affected by the ODC pipeline. But its offer of compensation of less than £100 per person to other claimants is rejected by virtually all those whom Hinestroza represents. A few have accepted, but most – and there are some 1,600 people involved – are holding out for claims worth a total around £20m. BP is defending the claim and believes its offer is fair and reasonable.
The farmers received a further setback last week when the their appeal was thrown out of court – the result, according to BP’s spokesman in Bogota, Pablo Urrutia, of farmers’ lawyers failing to turn up to a conciliation hearing.
Hinestroza waves a resigned hand over the piles of paperwork around her. She has no intention of giving up her fight. "It’s frustrating," she says. "Everyone knows that security is a headache for multinationals operating in war-torn countries like Colombia, but had the company settled with these people in a decent and prompt manner, it might have helped to defuse rather than inflame an already tense situation."
A pause, and then she adds with a wistful smile: "And perhaps I wouldn’t have to be sitting here wearing an overcoat indoors."
How much or how little responsibility BP should bear for any of this is, as is the way of things, unclear. "If such threats have been made, we utterly condemn them," its London spokesman said yesterday, but he would not comment on other aspects of the case.
Annex 2: Letter to BP Exploration (Colombia) Limited 30th January 2003
Dear Mauricio Jiménez,
I am in receipt of the report by Corporacion Excelencia en la Justica and thank you for sending it. I note that both this report and that by Fedesarrollo were commissioned by BP Exploration Colombia.
With regards to the pipelines please find attached our letter to OCENSA.
The evaluation we make of the meetings on 5th and 6th December 2002 is firstly that the BP Group cannot legally or morally separate itself from the issue of just compensation for the Zaragoza and Segovia peasants, for the following reasons:
- BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited was directly a leading actor in its role as Project Manager for the OCENSA pipeline in the contracts with the peasants and other substantive arrangements to do with environmental management;
- BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited is both a significant shareholder in and customer of OCENSA and ODC, and BP Group states that its policies apply globally and that it expects ethical conduct from third parties;
- BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited is treated as a foreign company in Colombia, constituted as a branch of the BP Group based in the UK. There are no separate shareholders and so there is no separate public or shareholder reporting of its activities which are consolidated into the BP Group reports.
Secondly we are extremely concerned with the partiality of the official process in Colombia. Your side appears to have continued privileged access to the environmental and judicial authorities while the peasants are excluded.
You cited the Ministry of Environment’s report in your letter of July 2002. We complained that the inspection was carried out with OCENSA but without the peasants lawyers who had originally asked for the inspection being informed. It transpires that you have a draft copy the report, but cannot release it. OCENSA say they have never seen a copy of this report. And neither you nor OCENSA provided a contact at the Minister of Environment whom I could contact about the authorship and status of the report.
The disappearing court hearing, as announced at our meeting. This case was transferred from El Bagre to Bogotá at the request of the OCENSA side to the dispute. Since then access to the process has been effectively blocked to the peasants’ lawyers. There is no trace of the jurisdiction on this case, despite strenuous attempts of the peasants lawyers to track it. At a minimum this is justice delayed, but as a Campaign we are increasingly doubtful of any fairness whatsoever in this procedure.
We remain extremely concerned that BP instigates a fully transparent, immediate and just process of compensation for the peasants victims of the OCENSA and ODC pipelines. In the meantime will continue to campaign publicly in Britain for a just settlement.
Colombia Solidarity Campaign
Annex 3: Letter to OCENSA 30th January 2003
Dear Señora de Francisco,
I am writing to follow up our meeting on 6th December 2002. In the first place I should explain that the delay has been due to the holiday break and the necessary consultations.
At that meeting we requested three points of information:
a) When and where was the reconciliation hearing that you stated took place in Bogotá without the attendance of the peasants’ side.
The peasants’ lawyer have made further checks, and emphasise that in any case they had been following all procedures correctly in the process of the case, and yet they still cannot find any trace of the hearing nor have they been informed of the whereabouts or outcome of that hearing.
b) We request the address of ODC, the consortium owning the first pipeline.
c) We request copies of OCENSA’s Annual Reports.
While we welcome the cordiality with which the meeting was conducted on 6th December, we record our deep concerns registered at the meeting on the following substantive points:
a) OCENSA does not have written corporate policies in respect of consultation with the community, environment or human rights. There is therefore no baseline against which to assess it claim of implementing ethical policies.
b) OCENSA has not studied the micro-level the impact of disruption to water supplies to the peasants’ farms and continues to deny this impact.
c) OCENSA has been the beneficiary of widened corridor from 12.5 metres to 200 metres, but has not paid any additional compensation for this
d) the partiality in the process of the Ministry of Environment inspection, which was carried out with OSCENSA and without consultation with one side to the dispute. Moreover this report is not available, except perhaps as a draft. It is still unclear to whom we may address enquiries about this report.
e) as above our deep concern with a legal process where one side to a civil dispute knows of the hearing and the other side does not. Since the transfer of jurisdiction from El Bagre to Bogotá, to all practical purposes the processing of the case has disappeared from view for the peasants’ lawyers. You assured us that you have full faith in the judicial system. On this experience we cannot agree. Here is a civil dispute where one side has the information as to the processing of the case, the side representing a consortium of a s state company and multinational oil corporations, and the other side which represents a vulnerable group of impoverished peasants does not have the information.
f) Above all OCENSA continues to deny moral and legal responsibility for the damage to the lands, livelihoods and lives of the peasants who insist that its pipeline has caused this damage.
As a Campaign we will continue to press for resolution of these issues through peaceful and public means.
Colombia Solidarity Campaign