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BP sued in UK for complicity in kidnap & torture of trade unionist in Colombia; company denies allegations

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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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