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2 Jun 2023


French tribunal dismisses lawsuit against Suez based on duty of vigilance law over water contamination in Chile

"Suez case (Chile): Court dismisses legal action - The French Duty of Vigilance law gutted of its purpose", 2 Jun 2023

“Our organisations, which represented the affected communities in the city of Osorno, have been deprived of any effective remedy against the Suez Group,” said José Aylwin, coordinator of the Observatorio Ciudadano’s Business and Human Rights programme and FIDH project officer. “The French Duty of Vigilance Law therefore remains ineffective in offering access to justice to affected communities across the world.”

The Paris Judicial Tribunal has ruled in favour of the defence. The court argued that Vigie Groupe SAS, formerly known as Suez Groupe SAS, could not be considered a defendant in the case, insofar as the contested vigilance plan did not mention which precise company within the Suez Group’s corporate structure was responsible for such a plan.

“Based on this interpretation, in the future it will be impossible for organisations to know which company to sue if the vigilance plan is not signed,” said Clémence Bectarte, coordinator of FIDH’s Litigation Action Group.

The judge also ruled that the plaintiff organisations were inadmissible as they had not summoned the company on the basis of the same vigilance plan as in their formal notice.

“This decision makes the Duty of Vigilance Law meaningless,” said Maddalena Neglia, Director of FIDH’s Globalisation and Human Rights desk. “Our organisations had taken the company to court, noting the failure of the dialogue with the company after the formal notice, precisely because the new plan did not at all take into consideration our original demands.”

This decision once again illustrates the reluctance of French judges to rule on the substance of this law...