Procès contre La Société Financière Internationale (financement d'une centrale au charbon en Inde)

Tata power. Credit: Earth Rights International

For an English-language version of this case profile, please click here.

En novembre 2015, des pêcheurs et agriculteurs indiens ont engagé des poursuites contre la Société Financière Internationale (SFI) auprès d'un tribunal fédéral américain en raison des dommages environnementaux causés par la centrale à charbon de Tata Mundra à Gujara, en Inde, financée par la SFI. En mars 2016, un juge estimé que la SFI ne pouvait être poursuivie en justice dans cette affaire.

En août 2016, les communautés et fermiers affectés ont interjeté un appel en soutenant que, selon les récentes décisions de la Cour Suprême américaine, la SFI n'a pas le droit à une immunité absolue et devrait être soumise à des poursuites pour les dommages causés par la centrale. Le 23 juin 2017, une cour d'appel américaine a statué que la SFI avait droit à une «immunité absolue» et ne pouvait être poursuivie par les communautés lésées par les projets de la SFI. En juillet 2017, les communautés concernées ont demandé à un tribunal de revoir la doctrine de « l'immunité absolue ». Le 26 septembre 2017, une cour d'appel des Etats-Unis a statué qu'elle ne reconsidérerait pas la règle de l'immunité. 

Le 22 janvier 2018, les demandeurs on fait appel auprès de la Cour Suprême des Etats-Unis qui a accepté d'entendre l'affaire, acceptant ainsi d'examiner la question de savoir si une organisation internationale comme la Banque Mondiale est immunisée contre les poursuites judiciaires. Le 31 juillet 2018, le gouvernement américain, soutenu par des experts et neuf ONG, ont déposé une requête (amicus brief) auprès de la Cour Suprême en soutien aux demandeurs, arguant que les organisations internationales comme la Banque Mondiale devraient faire l'objet de poursuites pour des dommages causés par leur activité commerciale.

Le 31 octobre 2018, la Cour Suprême américaine a commencé ses auditions dans le cadre de l'appel contestant l'immunité de la SFI sous la loi américaine. Le 27 février 2019, la Cour supême américaine a jugé que la SFI n'a pas d'immunité contre des poursuites judiciaires devant les tribunaux américains et qu'elle pouvait être poursuivie en justice lorsqu'elle agit en tant qu'acteur privé sur le marché. L'affaire est renvoyée devant un tribunal inférieur.

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Tous les éléments de cette histoire

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Auteur: EarthRights International

Today fishing communities and farmers from India represented by EarthRights International (ERI) filed suit against the International Finance Corporation (IFC)…in federal court in Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs allege that the IFC caused the loss of their livelihoods, destroyed their lands and water, and created threats to their health by funding the Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant in Gujarat, India. The…power plant, owned by Tata Power, began operating at full capacity in 2013…The thermal pollution discharged from the plant’s cooling system has led to a dramatic decline in the fish populations that local fishing communities depend on…The substantial coal dust and fly ash coming from the plant and its coal conveyor belt is also harming local farms, the quality of fish and salt from the region, and the health of local people.

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Auteur: Michael Hudson & Barry Yeoman, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The World Bank Group caused serious harm to fishers, farmers and villagers in northwest India by bankrolling a giant coal-fired power plant on an ecologically fragile stretch of coastline, a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. federal court in Washington argues. The suit accuses the World Bank Group’s private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), of “irresponsible and negligent conduct” in handling its $450 million financing package for the coal plant. Lawyers for EarthRights International…filed the case on behalf of people living and working near the coal plant…The IFC would not comment directly on the lawsuit’s claims. An IFC spokesperson provided a statement saying that the Tata Mundra plant “provides reliable power to rural and urban-based domestic consumers…” The spokesperson said the IFC and the plant’s operators have been working to address local community concerns.

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Auteur: Premal Balan, TNN

Fishing communities and farmers from Mundra in Kutch district…filed suit against the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-lending arm of the World Bank Group, in federal court in Washington, DC, through their representative EarthRights International (ERI). The IFC provided a $450 million loan to the Tata Mundra UMPP. As per IFC's rules demand that its borrowers take precautions to protect vulnerable communities' and the environment. IFC is under obligation to supervise, monitor and enforcing these rules. The fishermen have alleged that the IFC caused the loss of their livelihoods, destroyed their lands and water, and created threats to their health by funding the Tata Power's coal-fired ultra-mega power plant in Mundra, Kutch.

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Auteur: White & Case, counsel for International Finance Corporation

This case involves the alleged environmental impact of a power plant in Gujarat, India…The sole U.S. touch-point of this entire case is that one minority lender to the project company is an international organization, International Finance Corporation (“IFC”), which happens to be head-quartered in Washington, but with which Plaintiffs have no legal relationship. Given the identity of the parties and the locus of the claims, this Court should dismiss this action in its entirety with prejudice for the following reasons. First, IFC is entitled to absolute immunity under the International Organizations Immunities Act…Second, the complaint should be dismissed in its entirety on grounds of forum non conveniens…Third, Plaintiffs have failed to join at least three indispensable parties to this suit…

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Auteur: EarthRights International

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private lending arm, is claiming in court that it cannot be sued for enabling projects that destroy local communities’ health and livelihoods, no matter how much harm it has caused. In April, fishing communities and farmers represented by EarthRights International (ERI) filed suit in Washington, D.C., against the IFC over the destruction of their livelihoods and property and threats to their health caused by the IFC-funded Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant in Gujarat, India. The IFC has now asked the federal court to dismiss the case based on its claim that it is entitled to “absolute immunity.”…The IFC argues that it should not be accountable in court because the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the IFC’s internal accountability mechanism, “provides Plaintiffs with an alternative means of recourse.”

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Auteur: Matt Kennard & Claire Provost, Guardian (UK)

“Fishermen and farmers sue World Bank lending arm over power plant in India”, 10 Nov 2015

In the first case of its kind against the private investment arm of the World Bank, fishermen and farmers from north-western India are suing the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in a US federal court over a $450m loan for a coal-fired power plant.  The communities say the IFC has “destroyed their livelihoods” by reducing fish stocks and damaging the environment…[T]he IFC says the complaint…“must be dismissed in its entirety” because the IFC is entitled to immunity…“What are they afraid of?” asks Kristen Genovese, from [SOMO]…“you can sue your government, you can sue corporations. Why can’t you sue the Bank? Why is it above the law? You need to have checks and balances.”  At the moment…“the entire World Bank group essentially plays by its own rules”…In 2008, [the IFC] announced a $450m loan for the…“ultra mega power plant”…The project was billed as critical to providing cheap and reliable power for India’s industrialisation…[L]ocal communities say it has done more harm than good…The current case is important…not just for the plaintiffs to “get redress for their own suffering but also to ensure that other communities around the world don’t endure what they’ve endured”…

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Auteur: Valentina Stackl, EarthRights International

A federal district court in Washington, D.C., ruled last week that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group, has absolute immunity and thus cannot be sued in the United States...The district court concluded that it was required to find that the IFC is entitled to absolute immunity based on previous decisions from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs had argued that recent Supreme Court cases addressing immunity overturned the D.C. Circuit’s decisions. The district court did not consider that argument, but instead held that it should be heard and decided by the D.C. Circuit on appeal...From the start, the IFC recognized that the Tata Mundra project was a high-risk project that could have “significant” and potentially “irreversible” adverse impacts on local communities and their environment. Yet it failed to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to the communities and to ensure that the project abided by the required environmental and social conditions....

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Auteur: Claire Provost & Matt Kennard, Guardian (UK)

A Washington DC judge has ruled that the World Bank cannot be sued in a case brought by Indian fishermen and farmers who said that an investment by the Bank’s private sector arm in a giant coal-fired power plant had “destroyed their livelihoods”.In 2008 the International Financial Corporation (IFC) branch of the Bank announced a $450m loan for a subsidiary of the Tata Group conglomerate [Coastal Gujarat Power Limited (part of Tata Power)] to build the power plant in Gujarat...Their lawsuit marked the first time a local community had sued the IFC in the US courts... US district judge John Bates...accept[ed] the IFC’s argument that it is immune from the suit...The decision is likely to inflame critics of the World Bank, who say it is almost impossible to hold the organisation to account. 

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Auteur: Michelle Harrison, EarthRights International, on IFI Governance

...The lawsuit, Jam v. International Finance Corporation, brought by EarthRights International on behalf of the communities, will likely require the court to determine whether, and under what circumstances, the IFC can be sued...The case has raised two major immunity questions. First, is the IFC entitled to “absolute immunity” or instead to the same “restrictive” immunity that currently applies to foreign governments (known as “foreign sovereign immunity”)? Second, even if the IFC is ordinarily deemed “absolutely immune,” has it nonetheless waived immunity to this suit in its Articles of Agreement?...The court concluded that it was required to find that the IFC is entitled “absolute immunity” based on previous decision from the DC Circuit...As to the question of waiver, the court ultimately determined that the IFC had not waived immunity in this case, noting that prior court decision have thus far only found immunity to be waived where the plaintiff has a commercial relationship with the IFC.....

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