Plundering of Libyan fuel: proceedings opened following TRIAL International’s complaint

13.04.2022 ( Last modified: 09.10.2023 )

Respect for international humanitarian law must prevail over the quest for profits!

According to information gathered by TRIAL International, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has formally opened criminal proceedings for the war crime of pillage in a case concerning the alleged plundering of Libyan fuel. The opening of these proceedings follows a criminal report filed with the OAG by TRIAL International in May 2020. Currently, TRIAL International has however no knowledge of the persons – natural or legal – targeted by the investigations nor of the criminal offence(s) being investigated.

After a year-long investigation, TRIAL International and Public Eye published a joint report in March 2020 concerning a case of alleged pillage of smuggled gasoil belonging to the National Oil Corporation, a Libyan state-owned company. The investigation alleged that the Swiss-based trading company had purchased the smuggled gasoil from Libya in 2014 and 2015, a time period which coincided with the Second Libyan Civil War. TRIAL International analysed the evidence gathered during the investigation and concluded that the Swiss trader may have been complicit in the war crime of pillage. The NGO therefore filed a criminal denunciation in May 2020.

The OAG will therefore have to determine whether the facts brought to its knowledge complied – or not – with the law. The initiation of proceedings in such a case is an important step forward in the pursuit of accountability for economic actors who are active in conflict zones. According to Philip Grant, Executive Director of TRIAL International, “the OAG sends a strong signal to all actors operating in conflict zones that their activities must respect international humanitarian law.” TRIAL International points out that the courts rarely deal with such cases. The NGO has also filed two other criminal denunciations against Swiss businessmen for acts of pillage possibly committed in two other contexts, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and The Gambia/Senegal, which are currently being processed by the OAG. For the organization, these cases have the potential to lead to jurisprudence that will clarify for all actors operating in conflict zones or in occupied territories their obligations under international humanitarian law and thus contribute to putting an end to practices that, all too often, directly fuel conflicts.

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