Aker Kværner out of Guantánamo
(First published in Norwegian 05 Jan 2006)
By Erik Hagen
Kværner Process Services Inc. (KPSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Aker Kværner, has since 1993 been actively engaged in the daily operation of the installations at Guantánamo Bay. KPSI has worked in maintaining the installation where the U.S. army keeps prisoners suspected of terrorism. Aker Kværner has been greatly criticised for its involvement both by Norwegian non-governmental organisations and by the OECD’s contact point in Norway.
In 2005 Aker Kværner did not succeed in renewing its contract and consequently planned to withdraw at the end of the year. But the withdrawal turned out to happen faster than planned. “As far as I know, we are completely out of there. There is nothing left there for us now,” Information Director Torbjørn Andersen told Norwatch.
The prisoners who were arrested in the U.S. “war on terror” have lived in 5 square metre cages made of chicken wire, built by KPSI. Furthermore, the company has been in charge of the operation of floodlights that prevent the prisoners from sleeping. The company has received much criticism for its activities from, among others, Amnesty International and Forum for Development and the Environment (ForUM), which have accused the KPSI of being an accomplice in torture through its activities in the controversial prison camp. This past summer ForUM turned Aker Kværner in to the OECD’s contact point in Norway for violation of the guidelines of multinational companies. The Norwegian contact point, which is part of the Foreign Office, levelled severe criticism of the company late last year.
Criticised by the OECD
The OECD’s contact point agreed with ForUM’s charges and believes that Kværner’s operation of the prison contributed to breaches of human rights at the navy base.
The company also received severe criticism for not having presented all necessary documentation. The contact point claimed, among other things, that it was never explained what kind of ethical assessment the company had made in connection with its involvement.
“We have informed the OECD’s contact point that our operations are not in conflict with the OECD’s guidelines,” Andersen told Norwatch. “But we take note of the contact point’s comments,” he said.
Nor is Aker Kværner quite able to comprehend the claim of the OECD’s contact point that the company has not prepared ethical guidelines for its operations.
Will Not Return
“Is it of interest for Aker Kværner to continue its involvement at Guantánamo after this?”, Norwatch asked.
“We are completely out of Guantánamo now. I cannot see us returning there. This is a business line that we have discontinued. This decision was taken already during the summer of 2005. I do not believe we have any business that would fit into Guantánamo in the future.
Aker Kværner will now take the OECD’s assessment along into other projects they are involved in.
“The project is already concluded, so it is not relevant for us to apply these comments to that project. But we shall take the comments along into other projects we are still engaged in”, Andersen said.