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The good and the bad about Lafarge case

There is the Lundin trial going on in Sweden. And there is the Lafarge case slowly moving forward in France. These are arguably the two most high-profile trials for alleged international crimes by prominent corporations and/or corporate executives. Last week, a French court confirmed that Lafarge as a company, as well as several of its former top managers, could be tried for complicity in crimes against humanity. Our podcast partners Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg invite Cannelle Lavite, from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights to explain the recent decision on the Lafarge case. Courts in different countries are growingly asked to define what’s the red line companies cannot cross when working in countries in conflict, and the rights and protection of those directly affected by their activities. Tara Van Ho, Senior Lecturer at University of Essex, joins in to take stock of the progress and obstacles in holding corporations to account.

© Chad Davis
1 min 45Approximate reading time

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French cement company Lafarge has lost its most recent appeal in France’s highest court, meaning an investigation into its alleged complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria can continue.

The company has admitted to paying the armed militant groups Islamic State and al Nusra front around $5 million to keep its factory running in Syria after war broke out in 2011.

In 2022 they reached an agreement with the United States Department of Justice, paying them $777 million and accepting responsibility for paying the armed groups in order to keep their facilities running. But in France, Lafarge has rejected charges of complicity in crimes against humanity. Crimes that were carried out by the very same Islamist groups.

Lafarge was also successful in one part of their appeal, with the court dropping charges of endangering the lives of its local staff in Syria.

It’s a ruling that puzzles Cannelle Lavite, Co-Director Business and Human Rights Program at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. This week Cannelle talks us through the case and details the French court’s ruling. What it means for Lafarge but also for its employees in Syria.

We also sit down with friend of the pod Tara Van Ho, Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex, School of Law and Human Rights Centre. Tara gives us an overview of how corporations, such as Lafarge and Lundin are now starting to be held accountable for their role in conflicts overseas and what more needs to be done.

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This podcast has been published as part of a partnership between JusticeInfo.net and Asymmetrical Haircuts, a podcast on international justice produced from The Hague by journalists Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg, who retain full control and independence over the contents of the podcast.