Lafarge: French court confirms charge of complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria
The company, founded and headquartered in France, and its Syrian subsidiary, Lafarge Cement Syria, are accused of having made deals with armed groups including Islamic State to keep one of its cement factories open and operating between 2012 and 2014.
The company acknowledged that it paid almost 13 million euros to keep its Jalabiya factory in northeast Syria open.
The company contends that it had no responsibility for the money winding up in the hands of terrorist groups, but the appeals court sided with prosecutors who said Lafarge had "financed, via its subsidiaries, Islamic State operations with several millions of euros in full awareness of its activities."
The NGOs European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and Sherpa, as well as 11 of the company's former Syrian employees, filed a complaint against Lafarge in 2016.
Lafarge successfully appealed the charge of complicity in crimes against humanity in 2019.
But France's highest court ordered a retrial in September 2021, and the decision Wednesday means that a judge could order Lafarge and eight of its executives, including former CEO Bruno Lafont, to stand trial.
Lafarge also faces charges of deliberately endangering the lives of its Syrian employees.
"Today’s decision brings us one step closer to justice. For the sake of profits, Lafarge put me and my colleagues’ lives at risk," the ECCHR quoted Mohammad, a former employee of Lafarge Cement Syria and plaintiff in the case as saying.
"With this decision, it becomes more difficult for big corporations to hide behind their business activities to escape liability for the gravest crimes and shift the blame for faulty actions to their foreign subsidiaries," said Sandra Cossart, Executive Director at Sherpa.
The Islamic State group committed horrific human rights abuses as they swept through and controlled vast swathes of Syria and Iraq in the 2010s, including rape, torture, and mass murder.