France: Cement company Lafarge indicted by investigative judges over its Syria activities
On 28 June 2018, cement company Lafarge was indicted by investigative judges on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity, financing of a terrorist enterprise, and endangerment of people's lives.
This follows the submission in May 2018 of a memorandum written by Sherpa, the ECCHR, and former employees of the company. They argued that it was necessary at this stage of the proceedings to indict the company for complicity in crimes against humanity ; several former executives were already under official investigation.
This is the first time a parent company is indicted on the ground of complicity in crimes against humanity, and the first time that a multinational parent company in France is indicted for the activities of one of its subsidiaries.
Sherpa and ECCHR have requested that Lafarge open a compensation fund for all former employees and families of Lafarge's subsidiary in Syria.
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Author: David Keohane, Financial Times
LafargeHolcim's French unit has been placed under formal investigation in Paris over allegations the cement maker helped finance terrorism in Syria. Lafarge was charged by French judges on Thursday with endangering the lives of others, financing of terrorism and complicity in crimes against humanity, according to judicial sources. The charges are the latest developments in a scandal surrounding a Lafarge cement plant the company kept running as Syria descended into civil war during 2013 and 2014...
LafargeHoclimin said in a statement: "Whilst admitting that the system of supervision of its Syrian subsidiary did not allow the company to identify wrongdoings at the level of this subsidiary, which were the result of an unprecedented violation of internal regulations and compliance rules by a small group of individuals who have left the group, Lafarge SA will appeal against those charges which do not fairly represent the responsibilities of Lafarge SA." French authorities are investigating if Lafarge financed terrorism while sacrificing the safety of its workers by making alleged protection payments to militant groups, including Isis...
"This landmark decision must press Lafarge to face its responsibilities and open an independent compensation fund so that all former employees receive appropriate remedies," said the Paris-based Sherpa organisation, which supports victims of economic crimes and which filed a lawsuit against the company that helped lead to the investigation.The so-called 'Syria affair' has caused a public storm in France and has already seen several high ranking Lafarge executives placed under investigation, including the former chief executive of the company Bruno Lafont...A formal investigation means that prosecutors believe they have "serious or consistent evidence" that could result in prosecution, according to French law. The investigation can still be dropped.
Author: ECCHR and Sherpa
Today, cement company Lafarge was indicted by investigative judges on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity, financing of a terrorist enterprise, and endangerment of people's lives. The indictment of the company itself comes after eight Lafarge former executives are already under formal investigation. This landmark decision must press Lafarge to face its responsibilities and open an independent compensation fund so that all former employees receive appropriate remedies.This is a worldwide premiere for a parent company to be indicted for complicity in crimes against humanity, marking a decisive step forward in the fight against the impunity of multinationals operating in armed conflict zones. It is also the first time that a multinational parent company in France is indicted for the activities of one of its subsidiaries abroad...The charge of complicity in crimes against humanity is of fundamental importance as it frames this case in the context of multinational companies' involvement in armed conflicts...In light of this historical indictment, the progress made in the judicial inquiry and the prospect of a judgment, our organizations demand that Lafarge open a compensation fund for all former employees and families of Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS, Lafarge's subsidiary in Syria).
Can the Lafarge case be a game changer? French multinational company indicted for international crimes in Syria
Author: Claire Tixeire, Legal Advisor, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights
The story of the multinational corporation Lafarge in Syria could be one more blatant illustration of companies putting economic and strategic interests ahead of human rights. Or it could be a game changer. The corporate group has been indicted for complicity in crimes against humanity, and eight of its former executives, including two former CEOs, have been charged with criminal offenses. There are reasons to believe that the Lafarge case in France will mark a turning point in the desolate landscape of impunity that usually surrounds activities of corporate actors in conflict zones. The ongoing formal investigation was opened in response to the criminal complaint filed in Paris in November 2016 by eleven former employees, together with Sherpa and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)... Further indictments are possible before the investigation closes in the coming months. The parties will stand ready for trial. Lafarge was already ordered to give a 30 million euro security deposit, one which may guarantee appropriate damages are paid at a trial which seems increasingly likely. The next years will tell of the impact of the Lafarge case on holding corporate actors to account for human rights crimes...
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