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'Crimes against humanity' charge upheld over Lafarge collusion with IS in Syria

By David Coffey with RFI
Europe Reuters Benoit Tessier
MAY 18, 2022 LISTEN
Reuters/ Benoit Tessier

A Paris court of appeal has upheld the indictment of French cement group Lafarge for complicity in crimes against humanity concerning its activities in Syria at the height of the country's civil war.

Following a judicial investigation, which has been the subject of numerous procedural twists and turns, the Lafarge group - which is now a subsidiary of the Swiss conglomerate Holcim - was charged with having paid several million euros to terrorist groups, including the Islamic State armed group and its intermediaries, between 2013 and 2014.

It was done in order to maintain the operations of a cement plant in the northern Syrian town of Jalabiya while the country spiralled into civil war 

The group had reportedly invested €680million in the construction of the site near the city of Aleppo which was completed in 2010.

Regarding the multi-million euro investment, the Paris court concurred with the prosecution's assertion that the company had "financed, via its subsidiaries, the activities of the Islamic State to the tune of several million dollars, with precise knowledge of its actions".

Lafarge will appeal latest ruling

After declining recommendations from France's public prosecutor's office, the court of appeal upheld Lafarge's indictment for "endangering the lives of others" - essentially former Syrian employees who were forced to continue working in the Jalabiya cement plant while the region was in the throes of civil war. 

In November 2019, Lafarge had its 2018 indictment for "complicity in crimes against humanity" cancelled by the appeals court.

But in September 2021, the Court of Cassation - France's highest judicial court - overturned the decision, referring the charges to a judicial investigation.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Lafarge's parent group Holcim said it would appeal the indictment.

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