France: Landmark 'duty of vigilance' case against TotalEnergies over human & environmental rights impacts of EACOP dismissed on procedural grounds
'French court dismisses case against TotalEnergies E. Africa oil project', RFI, 28 February 2023
A French court on Tuesday dismissed a landmark case against TotalEnergies for a massive oil project in Uganda and Tanzania after several NGOs filed a suit to suspend the controversial project.
It was the first case of its kind in France, and activists had hoped it would set a legal precedent to halt projects deemed harmful to the environment and human rights.
Six NGOs that filed the suit argued the development of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) failed to adhere to a "duty of vigilance", a 2017 law that compels companies to avoid grave harm to human rights, health, safety and the environment.
The court on Tuesday ruled the case was "inadmissible", saying the plaintiffs did not correctly follow court procedures against the French energy giant.
It said the plaintiffs submitted accounts to the court in December that were "substantially different" from those that were presented to TotalEnergies in a formal notice in 2019 when the case was initiated.
The suit was brought by two French and four Ugandan NGOs, which accused TotalEnergies of taking land from more than 100,000 people without adequate compensation...
Friends of the Earth and Survival, the two French NGOs, and the Ugandan groups denied having substantially modified their submissions to the court.
They "only clarified them and consolidated their arguments with more than 200 documents of supporting evidence", said Juliette Renaud, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
The plaintiffs, who can appeal against the decision, said they would speak to "the affected communities" about next steps, Renaud added...
TotalEnergies welcomed the ruling.
It told AFP the verdict recognised the firm had "formally established a vigilance plan" with elements "sufficiently precise to not be regarded as cursory"...
The project is being jointly developed by TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), along with the state-owned Uganda National Oil Company...
Tuesday's ruling in France is the first instance of the "duty of vigilance" being tested in a courtroom.
Several legal proceedings for failure to comply with the "duty of vigilance" are underway against other French companies, including Casino, Suez, Yves Rocher and BNP Paribas.