Sherpa and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) have requested the indictment of the French cement manufacturer Lafarge for possible complicity in crimes against humanity committed by the self-declared Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
The NGOs had previously initiated a criminal complain against the company in conjunction with 11 former employees. The complaint led to the indictment of several Lafarge executives for the financing of a terrorist enterprise, deliberate endangerment of people, and labour conditions incompatible with human dignity.
On Wednesday May 9 SHERPA and ECCHR filed a legal note with the investigative judges highlighting the need to extend these indictments to complicity in crimes against humanity, in particular against the company Lafarge itself as a legal entity.
Possible complicity in crimes committed by the Islamic State (IS) in Syria
In a Memorandum addressed to the judges, the organizations explain that the crimes committed by the Islamic State (IS) in northeastern Syria between 2012 and 2015 must be considered as crimes against humanity. According to the NGOs, Lafarge acted as an accomplice to these crimes by maintaining its business activities there, by neglectfully managing its employees’ security, and by financing IS in various ways with up to several million euros.
A new, crucial lead on how this financing took place, set out in the note on the basis of new elements, is the possible sale of cement to IS. The organizations conclude that Lafarge and its executives could not have ignored that by doing all of the above, they contributed to crimes against humanity committed by IS in Syria, in the region surrounding Lafarge’s factory, but also worldwide.
Corporate gross human rights violations and armed conflicts
In the press release published yesterday 15 May, Sherpa and ECCHR express that the charge of complicity for crimes against humanity is of fundamental importance as it further frames the case in the context of multinational companies’ involvement in grave human rights violations, particularly in armed conflicts.
“Companies have the means to fuel armed conflicts by doing business with regimes or armed groups who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. The fight against multinationals’ impunity will necessarily imply holding them to account, in particular in countries where parent companies operate and control their subsidiaries’ activities worldwide. Access to justice for thousands of victims of armed conflicts depends on it,” says Sandra Cossart, SHERPA’s Director.
“With a view to the future of Syria, it is crucial that all those involved in the extremely violent crimes perpetrated by all parties since 2012 be identified. Today, French justice has the means to play a critical role in the recognition of such responsibilities, including when powerful Western actors are concerned,” affirmed Dr. Miriam Saage-Maas, Vice Legal Director at ECCHR.
To read the full Press Release, see Sherpa website.
To read background information on Lafarge activities in Syria and the accusations of complicity in serious human rights violations, consult the ECCHR website.
(Picture by UNHCR, used under creative common license)