It is a decision with immense implications that rendered, Tuesday, September 7, the Court of Cassation. Seizure of six appeals in the context of the judicial investigation against the cement manufacturer Lafarge (which has become Lafarge-Holcim since its merger with the Swiss group) for its activities in Syria, the highest French court had, among other questions, to rule on the indictment of the group for “complicity in crimes against humanity”, canceled in November 2019 by the Paris Court of Appeal.
In this long-awaited judgment, the Court invalidated, on Tuesday, this decision to cancel these very heavy prosecutions, pronounced as part of the investigation into the group’s activities in Syria until 2014.
The multinational is particularly suspected of having paid, in 2013 and 2014, through its subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria, nearly 13 million euros to armed groups, including the jihadist organization Islamic State (IS), as well as ‘to intermediaries, in order to maintain the activity of a cement factory on site, as the country sank into war.
The cement company bought the plant in 2007. Modernized and inaugurated in 2010, the facility, with a production capacity of 3 million tonnes of cement per year, was the largest in the region when the war broke out in 2011. But the cement plant is located 90 kilometers from the town of Rakka, which in 2014 became the Syrian “capital” of ISIS. The jihadist organization will eventually occupy it, forcing Lafarge to leave the country.
An investigation was opened in June 2017 after a complaint with the constitution of a civil party lodged by the NGOs Sherpa, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and eleven former Syrian employees. Eight former executives of the group had been indicted for “financing terrorism” and “endangering the lives of others”. A first warning shot.
In June 2018, it was the company, as a legal person, which was indicted for charges of “violation of an embargo”, “endangering the life of others”, “financing of an embargo”. terrorist enterprise ”and“ complicity in crimes against humanity ”.
A historic decision that the cement manufacturer had unsurprisingly contested. Lafarge argued that the charge of “crime against humanity” is very specific, the most serious of the penal code, and that, failing to be able to prove materially that its money was used to finance these crimes, it would be necessary to be able to show that the group adhered to the plans of the EI, at the risk of trivializing this notion.
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