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Article

5 Sep 2021

Author:
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

Forced labor of Uyghurs: German textile brands and retailers allegedly complicit in crimes against humanity

Today, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a criminal complaint in Germany against several high-profile textile brands and retailers. Hugo Boss, Lidl and other companies are allegedly directly or indirectly abetting and profiting from alleged forced labor of the Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in western China and might therefore be involved in crimes against humanity.

The Chinese government is forcing the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to work in the textile industry in the areas of cotton and yarn supply and the ready-made garment sector as a growing number of reports, e.g. of Amnesty International show. International law experts have qualified the treatment of Uyghurs in the region as amounting to crimes against humanity. Yet, European clothing brands and retailers source or have until recently sourced goods from companies in that region, according to the supplier lists they publish. According to ECCHR, the companies may be contributing to and are allegedly complicit in a business model based on forced labor – a risk they should have been aware of. European companies may thus be profiting from human rights violations. With the complaints filed in Germany, ECCHR is asking national public prosecutors to start investigating the legal responsibility of managers of European companies in international crimes...

This case exemplifies that companies must comply with international criminal law standards when doing business in repressive countries. Companies must avoid potentially aiding and abetting crimes under international law and other human rights violations...

... In response to the reports on one supplier, Hugo Boss had also carried out its own audits in the production plants, which had not revealed any indications of the use of forced laborers...

... Lidl has not been working with the producer named on the March 2021 supplier list for more than a year. The same applies to the producer named on the supplier lists of December 2019 and March 2020. The producer named on all three supplier lists has not worked for Lidl since the end of June, and Lidl does not plan to award any more contracts to the company...