Lafarge loses ruling on charges of crimes against humanity

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – On Tuesday, France’s highest court overturned a previous ruling to drop charges against cement giant Lafarge for complicity in crimes against humanity during its work in Syria.

According to Reuters, France’s highest court overturned a previous lower court decision to dismiss charges against cement giant Lafarge, and said that the matter should be re-examined.

Lafarge, which is now part of the Switzerland-listed Holcim, admitted in a formal investigation that its Syrian subsidiary was paying armed groups to allow the continuation of its work in the country after 2011, but several charges against it were dismissed after an investigation by the French judiciary.

On July the French newspaper Libération revealed a secret memo that showed that Paris was aware of the agreement between the Lafarge and ISIS between 2013 and 2014.

Libération said that the memo included a permit from ISIS granting the company permission to continue its commercial activities and access areas controlled by ISIS in return for payment.

On June 21, 2016, the French newspaper Le Monde reported that in 2013 and 2014, Lafarge tried to operate its factory in Syria at any cost by financing armed groups including ISIS.

French media said that the group was suspected of selling cement from its factory in Syria to ISIS, and paid middlemen to obtain raw materials from extremist factions.

Lafarge says its absolute priority has always been to ensure the safety and security of its employees while they work at the factory, which is located 150 kilometers northeast of Aleppo.

In September 2016, the Ministry of Economy filed a complaint which led to the opening of a preliminary investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Paris, and notified the National Judicial Customs Service.

The complaint relates to the European Union imposing an embargo on the purchase of oil in Syria as part of a series of sanctions against the Syrian government.

In November of 2016, Lafarge was targeted by another complaint filed by two NGOs, which went so far as to demand that the company be sued for “complicity in crimes against humanity.”

In 2018, a group of Yezidi women who were kidnapped by ISIS joined a criminal case against Lafarge, and the company admitted its mistakes in Syria.

“Lafarge-Holcim deeply regrets the unacceptable mistakes committed in Syria,” a spokesperson for Lafarge previously told Reuters.