Aker Kvaerner rejects Guantanamo abuse claims

OSLO, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Norwegian engineering and construction group Aker Kvaerner AKVER.OL rejected on Friday allegations by Amnesty International that it may have contributed to human rights abuses by supplying services to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Norway’s Amnesty International asked prosecutors to check if a case could be brought against Aker Kvaerner -- seeking to establish a precedent that firms can be held accountable for the human rights consequences of their actions.

The base in eastern Cuba is the site of a U.S. military prison where terrorism suspects have been held for years without trial following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Aker Kvaerner and its predecessors have done construction and maintenance work, including plumbing, for the U.S. military at Guantanamo since the early 1990s but the contract ended in autumn 2005, said Aker Kvaerner’s chief spokesman Torbjoern Andersen.

The company, which is a major supplier of services to the offshore oil and gas industry and several other industrial sectors, vigorously denies that it has contributed to human rights violations, Andersen said.

“We dismiss these allegations and don’t recognise ourself in the description of the project scope they have given and which is the foundation for Amnesty’s allegations,” Andersen said.

Norwegian Amnesty’s deputy chief John Egenes said Aker Kvaerner “contributed to the construction of the original camp and contributed to the water and electricity supply for the cells.”

Amnesty asked prosecutors to look into the matter after a law firm found in an assessment for Amensty that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were mistreated in a way that is against Norwegian law, the human rights organisation said.

“We have asked them to look into whether, according to Norwegian law, there could be a case against Aker Kvaerner,” Egenes told Reuters.

Egenes said the aim was to establish a precedent that would show companies can be held accountable under law for their actions in respect to human rights.

The state’s attorneys have said they will look into the matter, Norwegian media reported.

Shares in Aker Kvaerner were off 0.4 percent at 697 Norwegian crowns by 1229 GMT on a slightly higher Oslo bourse, valuing the company at around $5.9 billion.