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26 Mar 2012

Areva lawsuit (re discrimination in Niger)

Status: CLOSED

Date lawsuit was filed
26 Mar 2012
Racial & ethnic groups
Location of Filing: France
Location of Incident: Niger
Type of Litigation: Transnational


Orano (formerly Areva) France Mining, Nuclear energy


In 2009, two NGOs filed a lawsuit in French court against Areva, alleging that public remarks made in 2008 by its CEO were racist and encouraged discrimination against the Tuareg minority. In 2009, the Court ruled the complaint was inadmissible because the plaintiffs had failed to file the lawsuit within a reasonable time frame. 

In March of 2009 Alhak-n-Akal, an NGO based in Niger’s Tuareg region, and Menschenrechte 3000, a German human rights group, claimed in a lawsuit filed in Paris against Areva and its executive Thierry d'Arbonneau that public remarks made by d'Arbonneau were racist and encouraged discrimination against the Tuareg.

The comments allegedly made by d’Arbonneau, Areva’s Director of Protection of Assets and Personnel (Directeur de la Protection du Patrimoine et des Personnes), related to the rebellion of the Tuareg, a nomadic minority inhabiting northern Niger.  The Tuareg rebels launched an uprising in 2007 claiming the Niger Government had reneged on promises of greater rights for the Tuareg – a key element of a peace accord that ended an earlier rebellion.  The Tuareg rebels targeted Niger Armed Forces posts as well as Areva-operated uranium mines, which are located in the Tuareg region.  During a conference organised by the French Business Confederation (MEDEF) on 21 October 2008, in the presence of international business representatives and the French Minister of Interior Affairs, d'Arbonneau allegedly asked the French government to help “put down the Tuareg rebellion (in Niger), these men in blue who make men dream and women’s hearts break, but who are nothing but an illusion.” (“de mater la rébellion des Touaregs, ces hommes en bleu qui font rêver les hommes et chavirer le coeur des femmes mais ne sont qu'une illusion”)

The plaintiffs alleged that via his comments d'Arbonneau and Areva were inciting hatred and violence as well as discriminating against the Tuareg based on their belonging to a specific ethnicity, race, religion or nation, contrary to sections 23 and 24 of the French Law of the Press of 29 July 1881.  Plaintiffs further alleged that the statement’s denial of Tuaregs’ existence stripped them of all rights.  During the June 2009 court hearing, d'Arbonneau denied having asked the government to help “put down” the rebellion. 

On 15 September 2009, the court determined the complaint was inadmissible, stating that Alhak-n-Akal and Menschenrechte 3000 lacked standing to bring the suit.  The court said the suit was inadmissible because the plaintiffs had failed to file the lawsuit within a reasonable timeframe after d’Arbonneau’s alleged statement.  The plaintiffs did not appeal.

- “Paris court dismisses Tuareg suit against nuclear firm Areva”, Nuclear Power Daily, 15 Sep 2009
- [FR] “Les Touaregs du Niger déboutés face à Areva”, Yann Libessart, Libération, 15 Sep 2009
- “Groups bring civil suit against Areva”, Beyond Nuclear, 12 Jul 2009
- [FR] “Areva jugé à Paris pour provocation à la discrimination contre les Touareg”, Le Monde & AFP, 23 Jun 2009
- “Sarkozy in Africa to boost political, business ties”, Joe Bavier, Reuters, 26 Mar 2009

- [FR] L’Association Alhak-n-Akal: Communiqué de Presse [PDF], 26 Mar 2009
- [FR] Dossier n 0072 Touaregs – Alhak-n-Akal c/ Areva – d’Arbonneau: Citation Directe [PDF], Mar 2009 [Summons & complaint filed by plaintiffs]