French cement company accused of financing Islamic State

By agency reporter
July 4, 2018

In Paris on 28 June 2018, the cement company Lafarge was indicted by investigative judges on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity, financing of a terrorist enterprise, and endangerment of people’s lives. Eight former Lafarge executives are already under formal investigation. 

It is a worldwide first for a company to be indicted for complicity in crimes against humanity, and is being hailed as a decisive step forward in the fight against the impunity of multinationals operating in armed conflict zones. It is also the first time that a multinational parent company in France has been indicted for the activities of one of its subsidiaries abroad.
 
In May 2018, Sherpa and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) – initiators, along with 11 former employees, of the criminal complaint against Lafarge – submitted a memorandum to the investigative judges, in which they argued that it was necessary to indict the company for complicity in crimes against humanity at this stage of the proceedings. 
 
In that submission, Sherpa and ECCHR explained why the crimes committed by Islamic State (ISIS) in northeastern Syria between 2013 and 2015, must be considered as crimes against humanity. It was argued that Lafarge acted as an accomplice to these crimes by financing IS, and by failing to ensure the security of its employees. 
 
The charge of complicity in crimes against humanity is of fundamental importance as it frames this case in the context of multinational companies’ involvement in armed conflicts.  
 
“The indictment of Lafarge is a historic step in the fight against the impunity of multinationals led by Sherpa since 17 years. This case must create a precedent for all the corporations that fuel armed conflicts. Access to justice for thousands of victims in war-torn countries, among which the Syrian plaintiffs, depends on it”, said Sandra Cossart, director of Sherpa.
 
“The activities of Lafarge in Syria, in a context where extremely violent crimes were perpetrated, including at the doorsteps of its factory, are a perfect illustration of how multinationals can fuel conflicts and human rights violations. That the justice system finally acknowledges the scope and gravity of these allegations is a major breakthrough, as well as another step forward for the plaintiffs”, said Miriam Saage-Maass, Vice Legal Director at ECCHR.

* Sherpa is a Paris-based association set up in 2001 to protect and defend victims of economic crimes. It gathers legal experts and lawyers from diverse backgrounds and works closely with many civil society organisations around the world. https://www.asso-sherpa.org/home

* European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck together with other renowned human rights lawyers, in order to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other declarations of human rights and national constitutions, through legal means.  https://www.ecchr.eu/en/

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