Protests at BP AGM
Three visiting lawyers, members of the Colombian community and activists from the Colombian Solidarity Campaign and the Campaign Against The Arms Trade all worked together to put BP on the spot. Before the AGM started we put BP on trial, with three questions concerning damage caused by BP’s pipeline, its operations in Cusiana and its lack of co-operation into the investigation into the murder of Carlos Vargas (see next page). These same questions were put inside the AGM, with no substantive answer from BP chair Peter Sutherland, who grew increasingly belligerent.
Our intervention was covered by the Sunday Times, the Independent, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Morning Star and Socialist Worker.
BP makes very high claims in its corporate literature for respect of human rights, the environment and the communities where it operates. None of these claims have been honoured in Colombia. And so far we have just received a short note from BP, they have refused to meet either the lawyers or the Campaign.
Having returned to Colombia, one of the lawyers is now being threatened by the paramilitaries. Many organisations, including the International Association of Democratic Lawyers have written to express their concern.
We will continue to campaign for justice for BP’s pipeline victims. We have a lot more to do to raise this issue. The public should know that Britain’s biggest company is acting shamefully in Colombia.
If you would like to help, contact us at e-mail: email@example.com
"An Irish political leader has refused to explain what his associates have been up to in Colombia or to spell out the relationship between his organisation and one of the groups involved in violence in that country. The man is Peter Sutherland, former Irish Attorney General, then chairman of Allied Irish Banks, later European Commissioner for Competition, subsequently director general of the World Trade Organisation, currently on the board of the multinational Ericsson company and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Oh, and chairman of British Petroleum.
Sutherland became embroiled in what the Times described as a ‘shouting match’ at BP’s AGM when a shareholder put questions about the company’s use in Colombia of a security firm with links to right wing paramilitaries. Sutherland was having none of it. The allegations were ‘outrageous’. He ordered the shareholder to ‘sit down now!’. When the persistent chap continued to demand answers, Sutherland, according to press reports, "finally cracked" and declared, "This AGM is not going to be allowed to become a pantomime". Apart from his generalised dismissal of the allegations as ‘outrageous’, Sutherland refused point blank to respond.. "We on the board and…most of the shareholders are not concerned with these matters."
Has Sutherland been denounced by any mainstream politician or media commentator in Ireland for refusing even to attempt to rebut the serious charges laid against his subordinates? No. Why then should Gerry Adams be pursued for an explanation of what three Republicans were doing in Colombia?
We cannot say for certain that Adams even knew that the three had travelled to Colombia. But we do know that Sutherland will have had full access to all information about BP’s operations in the country. Why aren’t TV interviewers giving him the third degree? Where are the editorials in the daily ‘papers? The reason has to do with the scabrous nature of a political systerm whose malign priorities are reflected in the operations of both BP and the mainstream media."
Hot Press, 23rd May
Concern for Lawyers
A lawyer and peasants who are suing BP’s oil pipeline company have received death threats from paramilitaries in Colombia. Please urgently fax BP’s pipeline company, Ocensa, and the governor of Antioquia, expressing your concern. Use the proposed text below or write your own. The lawyer, Marta Hinestroza, visited England in April 2002 to publicise the case against BP. Many of your will have met her while she was here. The trip has made her a more high profile target and we are extremely concerned for her safety. She and her colleague are representing 200 peasant families whose land has been destroyed by BP’s oil line and now live in abject poverty.
We are extremely concerned to hear that paramilitaries have made death threats against peasants in Zaragoza municipality (Antioquia) and their lawyer Marta Hinestroza who has lodged civil suits against the pipeline companies OLEODUCTO CENTRAL S.A "OCENSA" and OLEODUCTO COLOMBIA "ODC". We urgently ask the civil and military authorities to take measures to protect their lives.
Hemos tenido conocimiento de amenazas de muerte por parte de paramilitares contra las vidas de campesinos del Municipio de Zaragoza Antioquia y su apoderada MARTA HINESTROZA quien adelanta demandas civiles contra las sociedades OLEODUCTO CENTRAL S.A "OCENSA" y OLEODUCTO COLOMBIA "ODC", por los daños y perjuicios que fueron ocasionados con la construcción de tales oleoductos, por lo que solicitamos enérgicamente que las autoridades civiles y militares les brinden las medidas de seguridad pertinentes para la protección de sus vidas.
Ocensa General Manager, Bogota:
MANUEL CASTRO BLANCO
Ocensa, Calle 78 No 11-17 Bogot=E0. Colombia
Tel: (571) 3250345 Fax: (571)2174815
DR. DENIS MACSHANE MP
Under-Secretary of State, The Foreign Office Whitehall, London SW1
On 22nd May, the international federation for workers in the extractive industries ICEM, the Belgian trade union federation the FGTB, USO (Colombian oil workers’ union) and the ICFTU organised a demonstration in front of the Colombia in Brussels.
Gilberto Torres, the oil worker from Casanare who works on the BP pipeline, and a regional leader of USO, was detained by the paramilitaries for 6 weeks, and then released after a campaign of international pressure. He will be speaking Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival, the annual celebration of trade unionism over the weekend of Saturday 20th July and Sunday 21st July 2002. (How to get there: Tolpuddle near Dorchester, Dorset The A35 by-passes Tolpuddle Village. Signs to the Festival site).
USO are calling for an international delegation to visit their headquarters in Barrancabermeja this November.