BP lawsuits (re Casanare, Colombia)

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá

In 2002, Gilberto Torres, a trade unionist who worked at an oil pumping station in the Casanare region of Colombia, was kidnapped by a paramilitary group.  He was detained in a pit and tortured for over 6 weeks. The plaintiff sued BP in the US and launched proceedings in the UK alleging that the paramilitaries were paid by Ocensa (a joint-venture between BP’s subsidiary BPXC, and Ecopetrol) to protect the pipeline from guerrilla attacks, and claiming that Ocensa ordered them to carry out the kidnapping.  BP denies the allegations.

US proceedings:

In February 2012, Gilberto Torres brought a lawsuit against BP in the US, under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). His case was on hold pending the US Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Shell.  On 28 January 2014, in light of the Supreme Court decision in Kiobel, Gilberto Torres voluntarily withdrew his case.

- “Union Leader Blames BP for His Torture”, Ryan Abbot, Courthouse News Services, 28 Feb 2012

Conrad & Scherer [plaintiff’s lawyer]:
- Gilberto Edgar Torres Martinez v BP [complaint], 28 Feb 2012

UK proceedings:

In November 2014 representatives of Gilberto Torres, wrote a letter before claim (required in England to give a final opportunity to the other party to settle the issue before going to court) to BP over allegations of complicity in kidnapping and torture of Mr Torres in Colombia in 2002 to offer BP the chance to settle the matter.  BP has denied the allegations.  In May 2015 Mr Torres filed his claim for damages in the high court in London.

In September 2016, the UK High Court ordered that Gilberto Torres’ case should end with no payment of costs.  He discontinued the lawsuit due to legal, procedural and financial challenges.

- “BP is accused over kidnap of union leader”, Michael Gillard, Sunday Times (UK), 9 Nov 2014
- [ES] “Sindicalista demandará a British Petroleum por su secuestro”, Noticias Uno (Colombia), 6 de enero de 2014

Deighton Pierce Glynn [plaintiff’s lawyer]:
- "Gilberto Torres BP case ends but opens doors", 13 Oct 2016
- “Kidnapped Colombian trade unionist sues oil companies”, 10 Nov 2014

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Article
13 October 2016

Colombia: High Court ends trade unionist’s case against BP

Author: War on Want (UK)

On the 19 September 2016 the High Court ordered that his [Gilberto Torres] case against BP and six other related oil companies, should end with no payment of costs.  It was the latest stage in Gilberto’s battle against violations of human rights and destruction of the environment linked to oil extraction in Colombia.  Gilberto, in his own words…Despite the tireless work of the team of lawyers and researchers in the UK and Colombia, we faced overwhelming obstacles...I faced the inequality of the tiny resources which I and a small law firm had against a huge wealthy multinational and 2 corporate law firms...Until the law is reformed, and until the US and the UK take responsibility for the intended or unintended consequences of oil extraction by companies like BP, people like me from communities like mine will not be able to access justice.  This is not the end of the story. Through the legal work of the past 4 years in the UK and Colombia, we have achieved many things...So although I have ended my international legal case in the UK with the deepest regret and sorrow, we will continue our search for justice, knocking on doors and holding on to hope...

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Article
13 October 2016

Gilberto Torres BP case ends but opens doors

Author: DPG Law (UK)

The High Court has ordered, by agreement, that...Gilberto Torres’ claim for damages in respect of his kidnap, imprisonment against BP and 6 other related oil companies, should end with no payment of costs...[U]ltimately the legal, procedural and financial challenges were too great for the case to continue and Gilberto was advised to discontinue...Gilberto said “Although I have ended my international legal case in the UK with the deepest regret and sorrow, we will continue our search for justice, knocking on doors and holding on to hope….And I have absolutely no doubt that through international solidarity, we will ultimately hold multinational corporations accountable for the destruction they have caused in Colombia and across the globe”.

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Author: Oil Justice

El 19 de septiembre de 2016 en Londres, el Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Inglaterra y Gales ordenó...que mi [Gilberto Torres] caso contra la BP y seis otras empresas petroleras vinculadas, debía terminar sin pagar los costos procesales.  Este caso constituyó la etapa más reciente de mi batalla en contra de las violaciones de derechos humanos y agravios al medio ambiente en Colombia, vinculados a la extracción del petróleo...A pesar del trabajo incansable del equipo de abogados e investigadores en el Reino Unido y Colombia, enfrentamos grandes obstáculos...[E]nfrenté la desigualdad de recursos que existe entre los fondos minúsculos de mi persona y un estudio de abogados pequeño contra una multinacional gigante y dos estudios de abogados corporativos...[E]l derecho...permite que las multinacionales eviten la justicia por depender de empresas locales...sin incurrir responsabilidad jurídica.  Hasta que la ley esté reformada y hasta que los EEUU y el Reino Unido tomen responsabilidad por las consecuencias...de la extracción del petróleo por empresas como la BP, personas como yo, de comunidades como la mía, no podrán acceder a la justicia...Aunque he cerrado mi caso legal en el Reino Unido con la más profunda tristeza, seguiremos en la búsqueda de la justicia, golpeando puertas y guardando la esperanza de que algún día llegará...

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29 March 2016

Colombian union leader Gilberto Torres discusses lawsuit against BP over its alleged involvement in his kidnapping, torture by paramilitaries

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In this video interview Colombian trade union leader Gilberto Torres discusses his lawsuit against BP in UK courts for its alleged involvement in his kidnapping and torture by paramilitaries in 2002.

“…[This] is a big challenge. As we say very colloquially in Colombia, this is a fight between a tiger and a fettered donkey. But… it is obvious that all these lawsuits and all these testimonies and interviews do make a dent, in the company’s image, in the paramilitaries, in the Colombian state itself… I believe in the lawyers who are fighting the case here in London... I am convinced that the evidence we have, that we have been gathering, can be the basis for us to seek this justice...”

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Author: Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos

En este entrevista con el Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos, Gilberto Torres, sindicalista colombiano, habla de su demanda legal contra BP en el Reino Unido por la supuesta participación de la empresa en su secuestro y tortura por parte de paramilitares en el 2002.

“[Es] todo un reto… como decimos muy coloquialmente en Colombia, esto es una pelea de tigre con burro amarrado… [Pero] todas estas demandas y todos estos testimonios y toda esta serie de entrevistas pues hacen mella en las imágenes de la empresa, en los paramilitares, en el mismo Estado colombiano… Yo creo en la justicia, creo en las personas que me están direccionando… en los abogados que están llevando el caso aquí en Londres… Estoy convencido de que las pruebas que se tienen, que se han venido recopilando, sean la base de buscar esta justicia.”

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Article
13 October 2015

Kidnapped Colombian trade unionist suing BP for complicity calls for laws to prosecute human rights abuses committed by UK corporations

Author: RT

"Tortured Colombian trade unionist confronts BP over human rights abuses", 12 Oct 2015

A Colombian trade unionist who was kidnapped and tortured by paramilitaries was joined by activists on Sunday to protest against oil giant BP's alleged involvement in human rights abuses. Campaigners from Oil Justice Now teamed up with Gilberto Torres to stage a performance protest in the BP-sponsored British Museum. Torres is currently suing BP in the British courts for involvement in his 42-day kidnapping in 2002. He believes his abduction was ordered by Ocensa, a joint-venture pipeline company that was part-owned by BP. [BP denies the allegations] The Colombian engineer and trade union leader is visiting the UK on a two-week tour to raise awareness and funds for his lawsuit...Torres said he has faith the British justice system will rule in his favor, but he urged the public to campaign for laws that prosecute human rights violations committed by UK corporations...Sue Willman, of lawyers Deighton Pierce, said: "He and his community face huge barriers in accessing justice. We hope his courage and the Oil Justice initiative will be a small step in breaking down those barriers, and changing the behavior of corporations..."...

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Article
26 May 2015

Colombian trade unionist sues BP before UK courts over alleged complicity in his abduction by paramilitaries 13 years ago

Author: Mary Carson, Adrian Gatton, Rodrigo Vázquez & Maggie O'Kane, Guardian (UK)

"Colombian takes BP to court in UK over alleged complicity in kidnap and torture", 22 May 2015

A Colombian trade union leader is beginning an unprecedented claim for damages against BP in the high court in London, alleging the oil company’s complicity in his kidnap and torture 13 years ago...BP denies any involvement...Torres worked for the oil workers’ union...representing 400 members working on the...Ocensa pipeline...set up by major oil companies including BP...BP paid a government tax of $1 a barrel to help finance army and police protection of oil facilities... Sue Willman...representing Torres, said there would be no accusation that BP was directly involved...But the company had failed to take action to halt paramilitary activity...“Amnesty International went to BP...warning them about the murders and disappearances. But BP failed to act effectively on the warnings.” Pro-government paramilitaries who were convicted in Bogotá of kidnapping Torres claimed that Ocensa had paid for the murder...Ocensa said it “did not commission, order or pay for Gilberto Torres’s kidnapping”...BP, Ocensa and Ecopetrol all deny they paid paramilitaries to guard the pipeline... 

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Article
10 November 2014

Kidnapped Colombian trade unionist sues oil companies

Author: Deighton Pierce Glynn

On 6 November, a letter before claim was sent to BP, and other oil companies linked to BP claiming damages from them for the false imprisonment and torture of Gilberto Torres, a Colombian trade unionist…[I]n 2002 he was kidnapped by paramilitaries on his way home from work in an oil pumping station in the Casanare region. There followed 42 days of false imprisonment during which he was chained, assaulted…The paramilitaries involved were closely linked to the Colombian army, who were employed to guard the oil pumping station and received payments from OCENSA. Gilberto was employed by the Colombian oil company Ecopetrol, which jointly owned OCENSA with BP subsidiary BPXC. BP or their subsidiaries had been making payments to the army. Gilberto had been effective in promoting the rights of workers and the local community…In 2012 as part of the demobilisation process, a number of paramilitaries involved in the crime were convicted; they said they had been ordered to carry out the kidnapping by the multinationals…

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Article
9 November 2014

BP is accused over kidnap of union leader [Subscription required]

Author: Michael Gillard, Sunday Times (UK)

The oil giant BP is facing claims that it was complicit in the kidnap and torture of a prominent trade union leader in Colombia, where until recently it operated a £1bn oilfield and pipeline…Torres received threats after organising a strike over the disappearance of an oil union colleague and complaining about the training of a BP-funded brigade of Colombian soldiers at the station…Five paramilitaries convicted by a Colombian judge of the kidnapping claimed during their trial that the crime was ordered and assisted by Ocensa, a joint venture pipeline company part-owned and operated by BP…Judge Teresa Robles Munar found in December 2011 that the facts pointed to “Ocensa’s role in the kidnapping” of Torres for “threatening [the pipeline company’s] economic interests”. However, the Colombian authorities did not act on her suggestion that a criminal investigation be launched into Ocensa…BP vowed to “vigorously” defend the claim. “We refute any involvement with or knowledge of Mr Torres’ experience, or that BP in any way hired, worked with or encouraged paramilitary activities in Colombia,” it said.

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Author: Noticias Uno (Colombia)

Un sindicalista que sobrevivió al secuestro a manos de los paramilitares de Casanare, denunció en Londres a la British Petroleum porque dice que puede probar que los ejecutivos de una de sus filiales organizaron el crimen. Los abogados del sindicalista…Gilberto Edgar Torres, demandarán a la British Petroleum ante un Tribunal en Londres por su presunta responsabilidad en el secuestro y tortura del trabajador…Torres fue plagiado en febrero de 2002 por las Autodefensas Unidas del Casanare al mando del paramilitar Martin Llanos, secuestro que fue ordenado, según testimonios de paramilitares, por la empresa petrolera en ese entonces, OCENSA, que operaba en el Casanare, donde la multinacional British era accionista…Una vez la demanda sea aceptada…los abogados del sindicalista le pedirán al juez que también inicie una investigación penal contra la British.

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