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8 May 2023

Colombian “blood coal” victims file OECD complaint against European energy companies with Dutch National Contact Point


On 20 April 2023, the organisations SOMO, PAX and La Asamblea Campesina del Cesar por la Restitución de Tierras y el Buen Vivir filed an OECD complaint against RWE AG, Uniper SE, Engie SA, Vattenfall AB, HES International, Havenbedrijf Amsterdam NV and Havenbedrijf Rotterdam.

The groups argue that the four electric utility companies with coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands and the three logistics companies involved in the coal trade in the Netherlands failed to comply with the OECD Guidelines with regard to adverse human rights impacts associated with forced displacements in the Cesar mining region of Colombia.

From 1996 to 2006, residents of the mining region suffered greatly from paramilitary violence - over 3,000 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced from their land. US-based Drummond and Swiss-based Glencore, the companies operating the coal mines, expanded the mining activities onto the land from which the displaced victims were forced to flee. The claimants argue that the victims still haven't received redress and human rights defenders opposing the project continue to be threatened or killed.

According to the complaint, the European companies failed to take action to address these human rights violations despite knowledge of the abuses in the supply chains. The organisations claim that the energy companies were directly linked to and to this day contribute to the adverse impacts of forced displacements and unlawful expropriation of land.

RWE, Uniper and Vattenfall are members of Bettercoal, a coal buyer-led industry initiative working towards a global responsible coal supply chain. However, the claimants argue that none of the actions taken by Bettercoal have been effective in actually mitigating the adverse impacts of the forced displacement or decreasing the risk of the impacts continuing.

In April 2023, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited RWE AG, Uniper SE, Engie SA, Vattenfall AB, HES International, Havenbedrijf Amsterdam NV, Havenbedrijf Rotterdam and Bettercoal to respond. RWE AG, Vattenfall AB, HES International, Havenbedrijf Amsterdam NV and Havenbedrijf Rotterdam responded. After initially declining to comment, Engie SA responded in September. Uniper SE and Bettercoal declined to comment.

Company responses and non-responses are available below. We will indicate here if we receive any additional responses.

Company Responses

Vattenfall View Response
Engie (formerly GDF Suez) View Response

No Response

Havenbedrijf Rotterdam (Port of Rotterdam) View Response
Havenbedrijf Amsterdam (Port of Amsterdam) View Response

No Response

HES International View Response