The French cement giant Lafarge could face a renewed chargesof complicity in crimes against humanity after France's top court Thursday overturned a decision by a lower court to dismiss the charge.
What is Lafarge accused of?
Lafarge is accused of paying millions of euros via a Syrian subsidiary and a middleman to Islamist militants, including the "Islamic State" (IS), to keep its cement factory in Jalabiya, northern Syria during the early years of the Syrian civil war.
It is under formal investigation in France on several charges relating to the factory, including aiding crimes against humanity.
The company has also been charged with financing terrorism and violating a EU embargo over payments made to the Syrian subsidiary in 2013 and 2014.
In 2014 Lafarge merged with Swiss building materials conglomerate Holcim.
What did the courts say?
Following its own internal investigation, the company had previously admitted that its Syrian subsidiary, Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) paid armed groups to protect staff at the plant.
However, it rejected several charges in the French legal probe, including the most-serious crimes against humanity charge.
In 2019, the Paris Court of Appeal had overturned the crimes against humanity charge, saying the company did not deliberately associate with militants.
However, today's decision by the Court of Cassation overturns the 2019 ruling, arguing that Lafarge's payment could constitute complicity.
"In this case, the payment of several million dollars ... to an organisation which is actively criminal is enough to characterize that complicity, whether or not the party in question was only doing so to pursue a commercial activity," the top court said in its ruling.
The ruling doesn't mean Lafarge will automatically face trial on the complicity in crimes against humanity.
The top court said the matter will be referred back to magistrates to consider whether to reopen the charge.
Lafarge has said it "continues to cooperate fully with the French judicial authorities" on the matter.
wmr (AFP, Reuters)