6 NGOs file lawsuit against Total over alleged failure to respect French Duty of Vigilance law in its operations in Uganda

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Report
1 June 2019

Serious breaches of the Duty of Vigilance law: The case of Total in Uganda

Author: Les Amis de la Terre France, Survie

June 2019

Total’s operations in Uganda involve risks of serious human rights and environmental violations, detailed in the present report.

In spite of these risks, Total’s 2018 vigilance plan mentions no specific vigilance measures for the Tilenga and EACOP projects. The vigilance plan thus fails to comply with the duty of vigilance law, as it does not map risks. The plan is clearly inadequate, as potential risks caused by the group’s operations are only described in a perfunctory manner. Only very general risks are mentioned, and the plan does not include a detailed report or rank risks based on the group’s actual operations (e.g. by sector, by geographical area, by activity, by company/ supplier/subcontractor, etc.)...

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Item
30 September 2019

TOTAL RESPONDS TO QUESTIONS FROM NGOS ABOUT ITS PROJECTS IN UGANDA

Author: Total

  • Total’s Vigilance Plan clearly identifies the risks to human rights, fundamental freedoms, human health and safety, and the environment that could result from our activities. Preventive measures specific to these risks are also set out...
  • The French Law on Corporate Duty of Care takes a general approach by type of risk. It does not require disclosure of risks specific to individual projects.
  • The Vigilance Plan does not cover management of the risks related to our operations. That management is provided through action plans and procedures in force within Total and other measures taken for individual projects, notably in response to impact assessments...
  • Total E&P Uganda and its partners have conducted detailed environmental and social impact assessments (ESIAs) that in particular cover access to land and water and potential environmental impacts. These assessments led to measures to prevent or mitigate such impacts...
  • Owners were offered financial compensation or compensation in kind. Thirty-one opted for compensation in kind... The other 591 people opted for financial compensation... Other measures have been implemented to support local communities, and more are planned. 
  • Total is fully aware of the potential impacts on local communities. Ongoing transparent dialogue ensures that any concerns expressed are handled appropriately. Stakeholders are informed and consulted at every step of project implementation.

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Article
23 October 2019

Oil company Total faces historic legal action in France for human rights and environmental violations in Uganda


Author: Friends of the Earth

Total 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 1,445km long giant pipeline will be built to transport the oil, impacting communities and nature in Tanzania as well as Uganda.

France's new Duty of Vigilance law compels Total to meet its human rights obligations concerning this project. The judge will decide if the corporation should be forced, with potential financial penalties, to review its vigilance plan, acknowledging the true impact of its oil activities on local communities and the environment.

In June 2019 the six NGOs presented the French fossil fuel giant with a formal demand to revise its vigilance plan and the implementation of that plan for the oil project in Uganda. Total rejected the charges after a three month legal deadline, allowing the complainants to take Total to court...

Juliette Renaud, corporate accountability senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth France said, “In addition to the urgent need to put an end to this scandalous project, this unprecedented legal case is also a legitimate sign of recognition that transnational corporations have new and very concrete legal obligations under this law"...

 

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Article
23 October 2019

Total Sued Under France’s New Duty of Vigilance Law

Author: Environment News Service

Today six environmental groups in France and Uganda, led by Friends of the Earth, are taking the French multinational energy company Total to court for its failure to elaborate and implement its human rights and environmental vigilance plan in Uganda. This is the first legal action under the 2017 French Duty of Vigilance law, which aims to address corporate negligence.

The six groups are seeking emergency proceedings against Total for non-compliance with its legal obligations under the new law...

Total plans to drill over 400 wells in the park, extracting around 200,000 barrels of oil per day. A 1,445km (900 mile) long giant pipeline is planned to transport the oil, impacting communities and the environment in Tanzania as well as Uganda...

Total responded to the environmental groups, saying...

  • Total’s Vigilance Plan clearly identifies the risks to human rights, fundamental freedoms, human health and safety, and the environment that could result from our activities. Preventive measures specific to these risks are also set out.
  • The French Law on Corporate Duty of Care takes a general approach by type of risk. It does not require disclosure of risks specific to individual projects.
  • The Vigilance Plan does not cover management of the risks related to our operations. That management is provided through action plans and procedures in force within Total and other measures taken for individual projects, notably in response to impact assessments.

The case will be decided in the Nanterre High Court, where a hearing is scheduled to take place on January 8, 2020.

A judge will decide if the corporation should be forced, with potential financial penalties, to review its vigilance plan... [and to] undertake urgent measures in order to prevent further human rights violations or environmental damage.

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Article
25 October 2019

NGOs file lawsuit against Total in France over Uganda oil project, includes company comments

Author: AFP & The East African

"NGOs file suit against Total over Uganda oil project", 24 October 2019.

Six NGOs said Wednesday that they had filed a lawsuit against the French energy giant Total over an oil field project in Uganda, accusing it of failing to avert "disastrous impacts" for local residents and biodiversity...The French law was passed in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013, when more than a thousand people were killed in the collapse of poorly maintained building housing garment companies working for Western brands...

Total plans to drill 419 wells near Lake Albert in western Uganda for the Tilenga project...Many of the wells will be in the Murchison Falls national park, and already many communities have been displaced from their lands..."Many communities survive on rearing animals, growing food, and these areas are where we have most of our national parks... the activities of Total have been really in conflict and in violation of most of those activities," added Dickens Kamugisha, head of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance based in Kampala. "We believe that the justice system in France is much more strong and independent" than Ugandan courts, he said...

Asked for comment on the lawsuit, a Total spokesman referred to a company statement from September saying the Tilenga impact studies "were carried out with respect to national and international standards." It acknowledged that 622 people had been displaced in a first phase, but said all received either land or money as compensation...

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Article
20 December 2019

Historic hearing in France under duty of vigilance law over impact of Total's activities in Uganda, says NGO

Author: Friends of the Earth International

"Total in court for human rights violations in Uganda: Historic hearing in France under the duty of vigilance law", 12 Dec 2019

The organizations are suing the oil giant on account of its activities in Uganda. Over two years of investigations have revealed serious violations of and threats to human rights and environmental abuses including land grabbing and intimidation, all in relation to planned drilling in the heart of a protected natural area...The judgment is expected on 30 January 2020...

Two representatives of Ugandan communities traveled to Paris to testify on the impacts of the loss of their land and the harassment and intimidation they have endured.

Jelousy Mugisha, pastor and community leader explains: "For us, it is impossible to access the courts in Uganda. So I hope that the French justice system will help us. There are tens of thousands of people affected. The impossibility of cultivating our land is manifested through the famine we suffer and through the school dropout rates among our children. We have alerted Total Uganda several times to our plight yet their course has not altered in any shape or form. "...

After questioning the jurisdiction of the High Court and the legal standing of the organizations, Total set out its arguments to weaken the interpretation of the law and try...to escape responsibility...

In court, Total questioned the use of summary proceedings and the urgency of the situation in Uganda...

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Article
10 January 2020

Ugandan farmers take on French oil giant in game-changer case for multinationals

Author: Portia Crowe, Jefferson Public Radio

Dorothy Mbabazi used to live comfortably as a vegetable farmer in western Uganda. The single mother of seven had 9 acres of land in the Buliisa region — nestled between Lake Albert and Murchison Falls National Park — and could afford good food, basic necessities and her children's school fees...

In May 2017, Mbabazi was among the first people that Total notified that access to her land would be blocked. Security guards were soon stationed in the area. Offered a choice between cash or a land-for-land deal, she chose land, but Total didn't immediately offer any up. For two years, Mbabazi waited for Total to show her where to move while living on rented land nearby. In May 2019, when local Total officials finally took Mbabazi to her new plot of land, she felt it was not comparable to what she lost. She requested better access to roads and basic services before she moves, but Total has not responded to her request...

Total’s land acquisition resettlement framework specifies that the Ugandans should be compensated prior to having their land seized. But, the company argued, it is the responsibility of its subsidiary to implement those regulations.

“That is not enough under the new law,” said Juliette Renaud, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth France, one of the plaintiffs. The French legislation requires parent companies to establish procedures to regularly assess the actions of their subsidiaries, subcontractors and suppliers.

If the judges rule in the plaintiffs' favor, Total would likely be ordered to publish a new vigilance plan. The judges could also order it to take urgent measures to prevent existing violations from continuing and new violations from occurring. They have until Jan. 30, 2020, to decide.

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Article
31 January 2020

French Court declares itself incompetent in favour of Commercial Court in case against Total over alleged failure to respect French Duty of Vigilance law in its operations in Uganda

Author: Friends of the Earth International

"Total abuses in Uganda: French High Court of Justice declares itself incompetent in favour of the Commercial Court", 30 Jan 2020

The Nanterre High Court has handed down its decision on the summary proceedings brought by Friends of the Earth France, Survie and four Ugandan associations (AFIEGO, CRED, NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda and NAVODA) against Total related to its oil mega-project in Uganda. This is the first ever court decision based on the French law on duty of vigilance. Surprisingly, the judges considered that the case did not fall within their jurisdiction, rather it should sit with the Commercial Court. They did not, therefore, examine the organisations' demands. Friends of the Earth France and Survie contest this decision - which will also have a negative impact on future cases - and are considering appealing. Frustratingly it will take several months to obtain a decision while human rights violations in Uganda continue...

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