Can the Lafarge case be a game changer? French multinational company indicted for international crimes in Syria

Claire Tixeire, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

05/09/2018

The story of the multinational corporation Lafarge in Syria could be one more blatant illustration of companies putting economic and strategic interests ahead of human rights. Or it could be a game changer. The corporate group has been indicted for complicity in crimes against humanity, and eight of its former executives, including two former CEOs, have been charged with criminal offenses. There are reasons to believe that the Lafarge case in France will mark a turning point in the desolate landscape of impunity that usually surrounds activities of corporate actors in conflict zones. The ongoing formal investigation was opened in response to the criminal complaint filed in Paris in November 2016 by eleven former employees, together with Sherpa and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). The legal action argued that Lafarge and its subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria had to be investigated on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity, financing of a terrorist enterprise, deliberate endangerment of people’s lives and working conditions incompatible with human dignity.

In an exceptional move, the French investigative judges issued a series of indictments between December 2017 and June 2018, thereby acknowledging the seriousness of the allegations and bringing the inquiry one step closer to a possible trial.

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