Technology and Construction Court
Rogelio and Rodrigo are a considerable ways from their local Colombia, their particular straw sombreros sticking out like a sore flash against a grey London background.
They've no time before set foot in UK, and they don't speak a word of the language. However on Monday they will certainly operate in court to offer evidence up against the international oil monster BP, which they claim triggered environmental problems for their land because of an pipeline it built-in the mid nineties.
The courtroom situation, which opened on Wednesday at London's tech and Construction Court, is one of the largest ecological instances in British legal history.
Along side Rogelio and Rodrigo, the outcome normally being brought to court by 71 various other campesinos, whilst the smallholder farmers and outlying employees of Latin America tend to be understood. Attorneys from the firm Leigh Day who will be representing the farmers will argue that the Uk business Equion Energia — previously generally BP Exploration (Colombia) restricted — caused injury to their land by negligently handling the building of this OCENSA pipeline, which works 515 kilometers from Cusiana and Cupiagua oil industries toward slot of Covenas in Colombia. The campesinos are seeking about £18 million ($29m) in compensation from business.
BP, but are vigorously protecting their instance. They argued in a statement that business is confident in its appropriate place and that the building of this pipeline ended up being done to a higher standard.
On the eve associated with case being delivered to courtroom, Rodrigo Mesa Leon said he felt confident about their legal position, but nervous and scared by the process.
"We are just campesinos, " he said. "we're in a foreign country definately not house where we do not speak the language, therefore we are going to have to face professional lawyers from a large company."
Rodrigo and other farmers active in the case allege the building associated with the OCENSA pipeline caused severe earth erosion and sedimentation, and blocked up vital water sources, which paid down the efficiency of the farms.
Illiterate campesino Rogelio Velez Montoya, 54, has lived his lifetime in Segovia, a remote municipality in the division of Antioquia. His dad possessed the 47 hectares of land that he along with his child now work and make a living from.
He promises that since the pipeline had been laid, his water supply is now damaged by sedimentation.
"we've got an inferior supply of water. Most fish within my ponds died, " he stated. "We also provide small water maintain pigs or hens."
Yet for Velez Montoya, even the alleged damage due to the pipeline to their farm would not sway him to leave it.
"Everyone loves the land, " he stated "It really is section of my identity."
For BP, the timing with this instance comes simply months after an US judge ruled that the business ended up being "grossly negligent" when you look at the run-up into the 2010 gulf catastrophe, for which scores of gallons of crude oil were released in the sea basin.
The case can also be the next concerning BP and several Colombian farmers. In 2006, a number of campesinos won a multi-million lb regarding judge settlement through the business after it absolutely was accused of profiting from a regime of horror enforced by local paramilitaries used by the federal government to shield the OCENSA pipeline. It was never alleged that BP were tangled up in the paramilitaries' tasks, nevertheless.
Both Rodrigo and Rogelio state that they've never ever received threats associated with their particular case.
Nevertheless the men do know exactly what it really is love to live among the guerrillas and medication gangs having very long blighted a lot of Colombia. In the country's decades-long inner conflict, it really is possibly Antioquia that features experienced the most.
For 63-year-old Rodrigo, just who has a farm only outside the city of Caucasia, the violence is one thing you must figure out how to manage.
"at the start there have been the guerrillas, known as FARC, later the auto-defense teams or paramilitary teams arose, and soon after on-during Uribe's government — these auto-defense groups surrendered and other teams called bacrim arrived, " he stated — the latter modern generation of arranged criminal gangs.
"you can be killed by his mouth, or by the gossips. When you yourself haven't already been threatened, the greatest you certainly can do is hold quiet."
But while maintaining quiet is really what Rodrigo recommends whenever enclosed by violence in the home, as he contends their situation of ecological damage over the next four months, silence may be out of the question.
"We hope that all the farmers who have brought this instance collectively are certain to get justice, " he said.
"We have trust."
Topics: colombia, britain, latin america, europe, bp, oil, environment, united kingdom, judge, farmers, pipeline