BP pays out millions to Colombian farmers

A group of Colombian farmers has won a multimillion pound settlement from BP after the British oil and gas company was accused of benefiting from a regime of terror carried out by Colombian government paramilitaries to protect a 450-mile pipeline.

Many of the 1,000 farmers and their family members who worked on 52 farms affected by the development, say they have been since been forced to live in destitution in the surrounding towns.

They alleged that BP benefited from harassment and intimidation meted out by Colombian paramilitaries employed by the government to guard the pipeline. It was never alleged that BP had any involvement in any of the paramilitaries' activities.

Last year, the farmers instructed British lawyers to bring a human rights challenge in the High Court in London to support their claim for compensation of £15m. In settlement of the dispute, BP Exploration Company (Colombia) has agreed to set up a trust fund to pay compensation. BP will also pay for workshops to help the farmers cope with environmental management, business development and the company will also supply other support requested.

The total package is not believed to be as much as the £15m first claimed, but is a substantial multimillion pound payout.

The mutually agreed deal means that BP does not have to admit any liability and has avoided a costly and potentially embarrassing court case in London.

Colombian lawyers who tried to help the farmers claimed they faced intimidation by local paramilitary groups. Marta Hinestroza, one of the farmers' lawyers, fled Colombia for Britain when she discovered that her name was on a paramilitary hit list. In November 2002, the Home Office granted Ms Hinestroza political asylum after she told of the threats she faced while working in the region.

Last year, a team of solicitors from British firm Leigh Day & Co flew out to meet the farmers. Martyn Day, the lead partner, said after the meeting that it was clear that the families were once respected and well-off members of the local community who had been financially ruined.

But BP insisted throughout that it has acted responsibly and that landowners were fairly compensated during the construction of the pipeline.

BP Exploration was the driving force behind the consortium that owns the Ocensa oil pipeline, which runs 500 miles from the Cusiana-Cupiagua oilfields in the region of Casanare to the port of Covenas, and has a pumping capacity of 620000 barrels per day.

As soon as the construction work began more than 10 years ago, the farmers said they noticed an impact on the local water table. Natural springs that local people had relied on for hundreds of years began to dry up, while other farmers complained of flooding. Crops failed, fishponds became unsustainable and livestock perishedin the fields. Colombia's oil pipelines have also become targets for insurgent groups. To stem the attacks, government-aligned paramilitaries have been deployed close to the pipelines. The soldiers have killed farmers' livestock for food and, when the farmers objected, soldiers claim they were threatened.

A joint statement, issued by BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited and the British lawyers acting for the farmers, said: "The Colombian farmers group are pleased to say that after a mediation process which took place in Bogotá in June 2006 at the joint initiative of the parties, an amicable settlement of the dispute in relation to the Ocensa pipeline has been reached, with no admissions of liability."

It added: "The precise terms of the amicable settlement are based on the establishment of an environmental and social improvement trust fund by BP Colombia for the benefit of the farmers, in conjunction with a programme of workshops for the farmers dealing with issues such as environmental management, business development and other topics requested by the farmers.

"Colombian farmers are pleased with the outcome of the mediation and are of the view that BP Colombia has acted in a fair, committed and sympathetic manner in dealing with their situation during the course of the mediation."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?