Join my fight to challenge human rights violations by UK oil companies
“Verdad, Justicia, Reparación Integral y No repetición” – “Truth, Justice, Comprehensive Reparation and No Repetition”
My name is Gilberto Torres and I am fighting a legal case in 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 by BP in Colombia, where I worked as a trade union representative on health and safety and labour issues. I was kidnapped and tortured by paramilitaries in retribution, and now I’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.
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 at the very oil pumping station where we worked. I spoke up.
I spoke up because I hoped BP would take responsibility. That was in December 2001. What I have been through as a result is beyond words. On 24 Februray 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  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.
Three paramilitaries were tried and convicted in Colombia for my kidnapping. They claimed during their trial that the crime was ordered and assisted by Ocensa, a joint venture pipeline company part-owned and operated by BP. The judge said that multinationals were involved, although BP was not mentioned, she stated that an investigation should be conducted into Ocensa.
BP and several of its subsidiaries were clearly involved – in training and financing the Colombian army for many years. I believe the army worked in conjunction with the paramilitaries who kidnapped me. I am bringing a damages claim against BP in the UK courts, for the human rights violations I have been subjected to. I have lived in exile from Colombia for over 13 years now. I miss my country, my friends, my culture. I am struggling to get by on a low income. This case does not only affect me, but anyone who believes that we should hold fossil fuel companies to account for actually observing human rights.
What I’m raising money to do
My UK lawyers (Deighton Pierce Glynn) 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 £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.
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.
Gilberto’s claim was filed in the High Court in London on 18 February 2014 to protect his position.
On 9 November 2014 Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG), after a long investigation of the case Gilberto’s solicitors wrote to lawyers for BP and the other subsidiary companies explaining the legal arguments.
They replied on 15 April 2015 denying liability.
On 13 May the High Court made an order allowing DPG 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
The particulars of claim are due by 14 June 2015.