Supply Stop and Human Rights Allegations for OMV

PeopleOther ♦ Published: May 22, 2024; 21:17 ♦ (Vindobona)

OMV, Austria's leading energy company, is currently under immense pressure. Two developments could have a significant impact on the company and the Austrian energy market: the threat of Gazprom stopping gas supplies and serious allegations of involvement in war crimes against former OMV executives in Sudan.

OMV warns of a possible cessation of gas supplies from Russia. / Picture: © OMV AG / Yuzhnoe Russkoye Field

OMV has published an urgent message warning of a possible interruption of gas supplies from Russia. The reason for this is a foreign court ruling that allows a large European energy company to enforce payments from the gas supply contract with Gazprom to this company. If the judgment is enforced against OMV in Austria, OMV would have to make payments from its gas supply contract with Gazprom to the European company. The identity of this company and details of the judgment have not been disclosed.

In the event of such enforcement, OMV believes it is likely that Gazprom could cease gas supplies, which would significantly affect the Austrian gas market. This assessment is based on Gazprom's behavior in similar situations in the past.

Despite this uncertainty, OMV emphasizes that it could continue to supply its contract customers with gas from alternative, non-Russian sources. The Austrian regulatory authority E-Control also confirms that gas supplies are secure for the coming winter. The storage facilities in Austria are already around 77 percent full, and alternative import options via Germany and Italy are available.

Leonore Gewessler, as reported by ORF, the minister responsible for climate protection, is examining current developments and calling on Austrian suppliers to accelerate the development of supply relationships for non-Russian natural gas. At the same time, SPÖ energy spokesman Alois Schroll criticizes the government for its inaction to become independent of Russian gas, as reported by ORF.

Human rights accusations against former OMV executives

Parallel to the discussion about gas supplies, OMV is in the public eye due to serious human rights allegations. The Austrian Centre for the Enforcement of Human Rights International (CEHRI) and the Dutch peace organization PAX have filed a statement of facts with the Vienna public prosecutor's office against former OMV managers. The accusation: aiding and abetting war crimes in Sudan.

Between 1999 and 2003, OMV was part of a consortium that extracted oil in what is now South Sudan. During this time, serious human rights violations were committed by military operations of the Sudanese government, including systematic killings of civilians and violent expulsions. The public prosecutor's office accuses the former managing directors of OMV of knowingly supporting these crimes and thus putting economic interests above human rights.

Two former managing directors of Lundin Energy AB, a business partner of OMV, are currently on trial in Stockholm. They are accused of aiding and abetting war crimes. The evidence in this trial suggests that OMV may also have knowingly contributed to securing the oil production areas. This trial, which is expected to last until 2026, is the first case since the Nuremberg trials in which the activities of a listed company are on trial for war crimes.

OMV rejects all accusations and emphasizes that Lundin, and not it, was in charge of the daily operations in Sudan. Nevertheless, OMV officially supports the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which call for the respect and protection of human rights. In this specific case, however, OMV has offered neither remedy nor reparation to the victims in Sudan.

The allegations and the threat of gas supply disruption are putting OMV under considerable pressure. While the company is trying to secure the gas supply in Austria, the question of responsibility for human rights violations remains unanswered. The coming months will be decisive, both for Austria's energy security and for the reappraisal of OMV's past.