Lord John Browne
BP Group Chief Executive
12th April 2002
As a campaign group concerned with human rights in Colombia we are hosting the visit to the United Kingdom of three Colombian lawyers. We would like to arrange a meeting with BP at the most senior level as soon possible so that the lawyers may present points to you.
The first set of cases are represented by Marta Hinestroza and Carlos Sanchez. They concern the ODC pipeline constructed in 1990/91 and the OCENSA pipeline constructed in 1995/6. The claims are for damages as a result of these pipelines by former occupants of land in the Zaragoza and Segovia municipalities in Antioquia Department affecting 46 peasant farms, that is 200 families or approximately 1,500 individuals. These families have lost use of their land as a result of the environmental damage, especially to water supplies, caused by the pipelines.
It is clear that BP has responsibility for the damage, it has been a member of the pipeline consortia since their foundation. It was BP Colombia who sought the licence to construct the pipelines from the Environment Ministry. BP was involved in formulating the original contracts with the peasant farmers in which they agreed for their land to be used, and BP’s agents were directly involved in paying the derisory sums in lieu of damages that have been paid to the peasants.
ODC/OCENSA have adopted a consistently hostile attitude to the claimants that is in direct contradiction to BP’s declared corporate policies on ethics and the environment. There has been considerable delay in reaching a just settlement in these cases. Meanwhile the peasants have been displaced off their land, and they are existing in absolute poverty and in grief for loss of their way of life as well as their livelihoods. Continuing delay and refusal to recognise responsibility for the displaced peasants’ loss has added to their suffering.
This issue was raised at last year’s Annual General Meeting, but nothing has been done. Once again we urge that the BP group acknowledges the pipeline victim’s claim, commits to a just solution and immediately ensures that its Colombia subsidiary adopts a more humane and socially responsible attitude.
The second set of cases are represented by Claudia Sampedro. She has raised cases that highlight serious problems in BP’s environmental policies in Colombia. They cover the broad concerns of a) application of the preventative principle, b) duty to respect the natural habitat, and c) the obligation to pay for the use and consumption of natural resources.
The two Popular Actions have been lodged in the Colombian legal system in defence of collective rights. The action raised in 1997 concerns gas contamination in Tauramena, and the action raised in 2000 concerns diversion of waters from the Cusiana River. Both actions raise the following issues concerning BP’s Colombia operation:
a) the irrational use of water and gas;
b) non-payment for the water and gas used in oil exploitation;
c) consequential deterioration and contamination of the environment.
Together these factors highlight the need to discuss Contracts of Association that only pay for one natural resource, oil, when three are being used, i.e. oil, gas and water.
In sum, we believe that these issues are both urgent and important and should be addressed by BP’s executive. And we believe that they are significant for BP’s shareholders and the public at large as they go right to the heart of the debate concerning corporate social responsibility. We therefore urge you to arrange a meeting with ourselves and the three Colombia lawyers as soon as possible, that is early next week. I can be contacted on the above telephone to arrange this meeting.
Co-ordinator Colombia Solidarity Campaign