Can a company be considered “complicit in crimes against humanity”? The French Court of Cassation – the highest judicial body in France – will consider on Tuesday the main points of the investigation into the activities of the Lafarge cement company in Syria until 2014.
About a year and a half after the Paris Court of Appeal dropped the charge of “complicity in crimes against humanity” against Lafarge; The Court of Cassation is considering 6 appeals filed in this first case of its kind, in which the company remains prosecuted for “terrorist financing”.
The group and two former officials – former security director Jean-Claude Viard and the former director of its branch in Syria, Frederic Julibois – veto these prosecutions.
In the context of the judicial investigation – which was opened in June 2017 after complaints submitted by the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, the non-governmental organization “Sherpa” and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights – it is suspected that the “Lafarge” group paid in 2013 and 2014 – through its branch in Syria “Lafarge”. Cement Syria” – about 13 million euros to armed groups – including the Islamic State – and to intermediaries; To ensure the continuation of the work of its branch in light of the ongoing war in this country.
It is also suspected that the group sold cement for the benefit of the Islamic State and paid middlemen to obtain raw materials from armed factions.
An internal report requested by LafargeHolcim – resulting from the merger between French “Lafarge” and Swiss “Holcim” in 2015 – revealed that the company handed over money to intermediaries to negotiate with “armed groups”; However, the group has long denied any responsibility in relation to the recipient of the funds.
And in June 2018, at a time when prosecutions were underway against 8 cadres and officials from the group – investigative judges in Paris charged the group – as a legal person – with “complicity in crimes against humanity”, “financing terrorism”, “violating the embargo” and “endangering At risk, the lives of two former workers at its factory in Jalabiya, northern Syria.
However, in November 2019 the investigation chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal dropped the charge of “complicity in crimes against humanity” against the company after it received a petition from it, but maintained the charges of “financing a terrorist plot” against it and 3 former officials.
The investigation room also refused to join 4 associations as “civilian parties” to the lawsuit, namely “Sherpa”, “European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights”, “Coordination of Threatened Christians of the East” and “Live for Paris”, which includes a number of victims of the November 13 attacks / November 2015 in the French capital.
The Court of Cassation, which only considers the form without going into the facts, will discuss whether the most serious criminal descriptions are appropriate in this file.
Among the topics that will be at the center of the deliberations; The choice is between “financing a terrorist project”, which is the offense that presupposes proof that the company knowingly financed terrorist acts without necessarily having specific motives, and “complicity in crimes against humanity”, which requires proving a special intent in a more concrete form, with prior knowledge. With a more visible criminal scheme and join him.
The Court of Cassation judges will also consider the concept of “serious and intersecting evidence” necessary to justify the other charges.