Several multinational companies with activities in Colombia are ‘to be tried’ in Madrid this weekend during the fourth Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP). Most cases deal with violations of human rights and liability for environmental degradation.
The companies being symbolically persecuted by the people’s tribunal include mining conglomerate Carbones de Cerrejón, British oil giant BP, the Italian multinational Impregilo and the Spanish-based utility companies Unión Fenosa-Gas Natural and Canal de Isabel II.
Carbones de Cerrejón, a Swiss/British/Australian joint-venture in which participate mining companies BHP Billiton, AngloAmerican and Xstrata, is held responsible for the killing of opposition leaders and forced displacement of indigenous and Afro-Colombian people in its areas of operation in the departments of La Guajira, Cesar and Antioquia. The Wayuu people and national indigenous organization ONIC who brought the case to the tribunal also accuse Carbones de Cerrejón of maintaining bad labor standards, pointing out that 800 of their 3,500 workers are suffering mine-related diseases.
British energy company BP is on trial for its drilling activities in the Casanare department in the east of Colombia. Over the years, in the areas where the oil extractor operates 9,000 assasinations and close to 3,000 cases of displacement have been reported. Colombian community organisations COSPACC holds BP accountable for ‘forced displacement and contributions to a culture of fear’, saying it has several testimonies of small farmers that saw their land turned over to BP after being forced to sell it to paramilitary groups. Furthermore, the company is blamed for contaminating rivers and ponds in the area.
The other Colombian cases being revised in Madrid are a hydro-electrical plant under construction in the northeast of the country by Italian multinational Impregilo and the activities of Unión Fenosa – Gas Natural in Colombia’s Atlantic coastal region, where 150 people died in various accidents, presumably due to bad powerline maintenance. The Spanish energy provider is also accused of links with paramilitary groups.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is an international opinion tribunal founded in Italy in 1979. Working independently from state authorities, it examines and judges violations of human rights and rights of peoples. The rulings do not have any official juridical consequences.