Oil Justice: “They’d kill me if I went back to Colombia”

2 March 2016 - 7:00am
News

‘Big Oil’ is a violent business, Colombian trade union activist, Gilberto Torres, knows only too well.

Kidnapped and tortured by paramilitaries in 2002, Gilberto was held for 42 days, and released after fellow oil workers shut down pumping stations and refineries, across Colombia, in protest.  

Gilberto believes his abduction was ordered and assisted by the security arm of Ocensa, a joint venture pipeline company at the time part owned and operated by BP.  Seeking justice, and with  support from the Oil Justice initiative - a collaboration between War on Want, UK law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn and Colombian grassroots organisation COSPACC - he is taking the oil giant to the High Court in London. 

Gilberto Torres with theatrical group 'BP or not BP?' at British Museum Photo credit: Kristian Buus

Colombia possesses huge natural wealth and is the second most biodiverse country in the world. However, its natural bounty has proved a curse.

Against the backdrop of civil war, big oil companies are devastating rural communities: their operations have forced people from their land, polluted the environment, and led to widespread human rights violations.

According to the Colombia Human Rights Data Analysis Group, since BP and other companies began operating in the oil rich state of Casanare, central Colombia, in the early 1990s, some 12,000 people have been murdered or disappeared.  

During a recent speaker tour of the UK, organised by War on Want, Gilberto spoke of the human rights abuses in the extractive industry, and how time and again community activists and trade unionists are targeted.

“Since the oil companies came, every time a community activist or trade union member stands up to challenge human rights abuses or damage to the environment, they are threatened, attacked and in some cases murdered. I hold the multinationals responsible for this,” said Gilberto.

His lawyer, Susan Willman, of Deighton Pierce Glynn, said: “Stricter laws are needed in the UK to deter multinationals like BP from investing in conflict zones like Colombia where their presence will be associated with atrocities. At the very least, victims like Gilberto deserve access to a remedy in our courts.”

Gilberto now lives in exile. ‘They’d kill me if I went back to Colombia,’ he said.

 

Latest news

National action for trade democracy

23 November 2017 - 2:30pm

Join a two day mobilisation to build the campaign for trade democracy, organised by Global Justice Now and War on Want.

Thanks to the hard work of activists on the ground, and the brazenness of the government, trade democracy is climbing up the political agenda. Over 100 MPs have signed an EDM calling for increased parliamentary scrutiny over trade deals. The SNP are calling for Scotland to have its own trade policy. People don’t want chlorinated chicken flooding UK supermarkets. Now is the time to strengthen the campaign for trade democracy.

Read more

Watch videos of "Paradises of the Earth" Web Documentary - Tunisia

23 November 2017 - 8:15am

First Episode - Gabes: Watch now!

This episode follows an international solidarity caravan to the first stop of the trip: the mediterranean oasis of Gabes in southern #Tunisia, where the installation of a chemical phosphate factory on its shores caused an ecocide deeply impacting fishing, agriculture, water resources and people's livelihoods.

Read more

Join the conversation

RT @unitetheunion: #SportsDirectShame back in action | With the proposed £11m back pay for Ashley's brother, what about the outstanding bac… 5 hours 19 min ago
The people of Jemna are fighting for their right to work on their ancestral land. See their struggle in Paradises o… https://t.co/NKPCwqm7fT 5 hours 38 min ago
RT @novaramedia: TODAY 1PM #NovaraFM Climate and Capital after COP23 with @piercepenniless @chilledasad100 and @zoozanne. You can listen l… 9 hours 53 sec ago