Torres v BP and others

By Gilberto Torres

Torres v BP and others

By Gilberto Torres

My name is Gilberto Torres and I am fighting a legal case before the UK High Court in order to end the impunity of British oil companies’ actions abroad. Me and my family have had our lives destroyed because I tried to take a stand when I saw human rights and environmental abuses being committed to protect the interests of BP in Colombia, where I worked as an engineer. Read more about my case [here](https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/22/colombian-takes-bp-to-court-in-uk-alleged-complicity-kidnap-and-torture)

Funded
on 12th June 2015
£5,065
pledged by 111 people

My name is Gilberto Torres and I am fighting a legal case before the UK High Court in order to end the impunity of British oil companies’ actions abroad. Me and my family have had our lives destroyed because I tried to take a stand when I saw human rights and environmental abuses being committed to protect the interests of BP in Colombia, where I worked as an engineer. Read more about my case [here](https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/22/colombian-takes-bp-to-court-in-uk-alleged-complicity-kidnap-and-torture)

Update on my case

Oct. 14, 2016

Please see below an update on my case – as posted on my lawyer's website here: http://www.dpglaw.co.uk/gilberto-torres-bp-case-ends-opens-doors/

The High Court has ordered, by agreement, that DPG client 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.

Gilberto Torres, the C...

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Join me as I speak truth to power


My name is Gilberto Torres and I am fighting a legal case before the UK High Court in order to end the impunity of British oil companies’ actions abroad.

Me and my family have had our lives destroyed because I tried to take a stand when I saw human rights and environmental abuses being committed to protect the interests of BP in Colombia, where I worked as an engineer. I was kidnapped and tortured in retribution, and now we’ve been forced to leave Colombia and live in exile. Help us get our lives back, and help expose in court the human rights violations committed by fossil fuel companies abroad.

See the Guardian film about my case


My case

I worked from 7 August 1989 as an engineer for Ecopetrol in Colombia. In 1991 I was elected to join the workers’ union, Union Sindical Obrera (USO). I saw so many things that were devastating. A colleague in the oil union disappeared, presumed murdered. BP was funding a brigade of Colombian soldiers which had a presence at the very oil pumping station where we worked. I spoke up.

I spoke up because I hoped BP would take responsibility for what was being done to protect their interests in Colombia. That was in December 2001. What I have been through as a result is beyond words. On 24 February 2002 I was kidnapped on my way back home after work. I was tortured. I was told, to torture me, that my wife and son had also been captured. I was 38 years old at the time.

I don’t know why I was released- maybe due to international pressure. My return was negotiated on 7 April 2002. But I had to flee Colombia. I now live in exile. My marriage has broken down under the strain so I live apart from my wife and my main contact with my son is by WhatsApp.

ICRC meeting me on my release

Four paramilitaries were tried and convicted in Colombia for my kidnapping. A USO trade union leader, Hernando Hernandez stated in evidence that “OCENSA ordered the kidnap” due to the First Claimant’s role in stopping the oil pipelines in labour disputes.

They claimed during their trial that the crime was ordered and assisted by Ocensa, a joint venture pipeline company previously part-owned and operated by BP. The judge said that multinationals were involved in ordering the kidnapping.

What I'm raising money to do

My UK lawyers Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG) are taking my case on a conditional basis – so I don’t pay them anything unless we win. They are bearing most of the costs and the risks of taking this case. But they can’t cover everything. I am trying to raise at least £5,000 in order to be able to pay for the court fees, translation of documents, a Colombian legal expert and take my case to the next stage in the UK courts.

BP or its subsidiaries have a responsibility – they were connected to the training and financing of the local Colombian army brigade for many years. I believe the army worked in conjunction with the paramilitaries who kidnapped me.

My treatment and the fear caused by kidnapping and other human rights abuses against me and others campaigning against BP in Colombia has suppressed opposition to BP and its subsidiaries. This should not be allowed to happen.

Why you should support me

I am not the only person affected by what happened. In Casanare since the oil companies came, every time a community activist or trade union member stood up in Casanare to challenge human rights abuses or damage to the environment, they were threatened, attacked and in hundreds of cases murdered. I hold the multinationals responsible for this.

About the claimant

My name is Gilberto Torres. I suffered enormously for speaking out against human rights abuses and now I'm trying to hold the companies involved to account.

Fast facts

## Stand up for human rights ### Name of case: Torres v BP plc and others ### What's at stake? Astonishing human rights abuses were, and are, being perpetrated by powerful oil companies. I'm trying to hold them to account. ### What's the next step? We just got permission last week (on 13 May) from the High Court to serve the claim form on OCENSA in Colombia, the company set up by BP to develop the oil pipeline in Casanare. A BP company has a shareholding in OCENSA. We have to file the next big document in the case, the particulars of claim, which set out the details of my case, on 14 June 2015. ### Read more in the Guardian The [Guardian covered my case](http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/22/colombian-takes-bp-to-court-in-uk-alleged-complicity-kidnap-and-torture) on 22 May 2015.

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Update on my case

Oct. 14, 2016

Please see below an update on my case – as posted on my lawyer's website here: http://www.dpglaw.co.uk/gilberto-torres-bp-case-ends-opens-doors/

The High Court has ordered, by agreement, that DPG client 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.

Gilberto Torres, the Colombian trade unionist who has kidnapped and tortured by paramilitaries in 2002, has made astatement about this high profile case.

In 2012, DPG protectively filed a damages claim case in the High Court (QBD) which included a claim for false imprisonment, torture and assault UK against BP and 6 other oil companies registered in the UK, as well as OCENSA in Colombia. Gilberto’s solicitors were Sue Willman and Dan Carey, and experienced barristers Richard Hermer QC(Matrix Chambers) and Claire McGregor, later assisted by David Hart QC, also of 1 Crown Office Row. However, ultimately the legal, procedural and financial challenges were too great for the case to continue and Gilberto was advised to discontinue.

Gilberto’s case received a boost with funding for expenses (Colombian legal expert reports and translation) fromCrowdjustice but such complex technical cases are very costly and there is no public funding for any aspect of the work. There is no equality of access to justice between a multinational oil company and an exiled trade unionist.

The Oiljustice UK tour with War on Want attracted the support of volunteer researchers and activists like Art not Oilwho continue to support Gilberto’s struggle.

The press coverage drew attention to BP and Equion’s actions in Casanare and the wider issues of business and human rights.

Guardian article: I was kidnapped, chained and blindfolded. They’d kill me if I went back to Colombia
The Ecologist article: BBC fails to challenge BP arts sponsorship chief on kidnap and torture allegations
Le Monde article: Big Oil’s ethical violence 

DPG continues to support the Oiljustice Project’s work to investigate human rights and environmental violations, in partnership with War on Want and the Colombian NGO Cos-Pacc, which has started a monthly event called the Popular School of Investigation and the Environment, to help re-build the community and share experience. The school is named in memory of Daniel Abril Fuentes, a local environmentalist and campesino who has killed in November 2015.

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”.

Read War on Want’s statement here.

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