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Klage

23 Okt 2019

Total lawsuit (re failure to respect French duty of vigilance law in operations in Uganda)

Status: ONGOING

Datum des Vorfalls
23. Oktober 2019
Unbekannt
Community
Location of Filing: Frankreich
Location of Incident: Uganda
Type of Litigation: Transnational

Unternehmen

TotalEnergies (formerly Total) Frankreich Öl, Gas & Kohle, Energie

Sources

Case profile also available in: Español |

Snapshot:
In 2019, six civil society organisations filed a lawsuit in France against French oil company Total, for allegedly failing to comply with the duty of vigilance law in their mining project in Uganda. Total denies the allegations. The case is ongoing.

Factual Background

Total, an oil and gas company headquartered in France, is the main operator of a mega oil project in Lake Albert and Murchison Falls, a protected natural park in Uganda. Total plans to drill over 400 wells, extracting around 200,000 barrels of oil per day. A pipeline will be built to transport the oil. Allegedly these operations will impact communities and nature in Tanzania and Uganda.

The start of the project has displaced thousands of people, and plaintiffs claim Total has failed to properly compensate local property owners. They additionally note the plan threatens local biodiversity in the protected park.

Legal Argument

The plaintiffs, six civil society organisations, are bringing the lawsuit under the 2017 French Duty of Vigilance law. This is the first case tested under the new rule. The law requires large French companies to establish and implement “reasonable vigilance measures adequate to identify risks and to prevent severe impacts on human rights and fundamental freedoms, on the health and safety of individuals and on the environment.”

The plaintiffs argue the vigilance plan published by Total is inadequate because it does not reference its Ugandan project and therefore violates the French law. The court will decide whether the corporation should be forced, with potential financial penalties, to review its vigilance plan and acknowledge the impact of its oil activities on local communities and the environment. Additionally, the court may also order Total to take urgent action to prevent further human rights violations or environmental damage.

Total denies the allegations and notes their Vigilance Plan “clearly identifies the risks to human rights, fundamental freedoms, human health and safety, and the environment that could result from our activities.”

Legal Proceedings

On 24 June 2019, as per the duty of vigilance law, the plaintiffs filed a legal notification against Total demanding it revise its vigilance plan and the implementation of that plan for the oil project in Uganda. Total responded by rejecting the charges after the three month legal deadline, allowing the complainants to take Total to court.

On 23 October 2019 the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Nanterre, France. They requested the court order Total to conform with the duty of vigilance law and include the environmental and human rights implications of their mining project in Uganda in their vigilance plan.

On 30 January 2020, the court in Nanterre declared itself incompetent to rule on the case involving Total’s activities in Uganda and instead referred the matter to a commercial court. In March 2020, the plaintiffs appealed the decision.

On 28 October 2020, the Versailles court of appeal heard parties to the appeal. On 10 December 2020, the court of appeal found in favour of Total and remanded the case to the commercial court. The court did not rule on the merits of the case.

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