French court confirms investigation over Lafarge’s crimes against humanity


French cement company Lafarge will have to face charges of complicity in crimes against the humanity over their operations in Syria during the civil war in the country in 2011. France’s supreme court rejected a request from the company to completely dismiss the case and the investigation will continue.

The company received only partial recognition for its appeal, as the court dropped charges of endangering its staff. The investigation has been going on since 2016 and will resume shortly, however it is unclear if the case will indeed go to court.

The ruling is a “partial victory” according to Anna Kiefer, a lawyer for French campaign group Sherpa, one of the firms accusing Lafarge. The decision of dropping the accusation of endangering staff’s lives is a “major setback.” The decision was made as Lafarge could not be prosecuted on the basis of French labour law, because French legislation didn’t apply to Syrian staff.

Lafarge confirmed that, according to its own investigation, its Syrian subsidiary paid armed groups to protect staff and the local plant during the civil war. US prosecutors believe that the French company, since 2015 part of Swiss company Holcim, paid the Islamic State and al Nusra Front around $6 million between 2013 and 2014. Lafarge denied that it was complicit in crimes against humanity committed by the Islamist groups.

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