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Lafarge loses case over ‘crime against humanity’ in Syria’s civil war

France’s top court has overturned a decision by a lower court to dismiss charges brought against cement giant Lafarge for complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria’s civil war

IANS | New Delhi |

In a major setback for cement major Lafarge, France’s top court has overturned a decision by a lower court that had dismissed charges against the company for complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria’s civil war, reports said.

Lafarge is accused of paying nearly $15.3 million to militant groups including the Islamic State (IS) to keep its cement factory in northern Syria running through the early years of the country’s war.

France’s top court has overturned a decision by a lower court to dismiss charges brought against cement giant Lafarge for complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria’s civil war.

The ruling by the Court of Cassation on Tuesday marks a major setback for Lafarge, which is accused of paying nearly 13 million euros ($15.3m) to armed groups including the Islamic State, in order to keep its cement factory in northern Syria running through the early years of the country’s war.

Lafarge merged with Swiss group Holcim in 2015 and is under formal investigation in France for its efforts to keep a factory running in Syria after conflict erupted in 2011.

In India, LafargeHolcim, the holding company of ACC and Ambuja Cements, rebranded itself Holcim Group in July this year.

According to rights groups including the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and France’s Sherpa, the company bought raw materials and oil from armed fighters and made payments for the safe passage of workers through checkpoints.

As per media reports, Lafarge has acknowledged that its Syrian arm paid middlemen to negotiate with armed groups to allow the movement of staff and goods inside the war zone.

However, it denies responsibility for the money winding up in the hands of terrorist groups and has fought to have the case dropped.

In 2019, the Paris Court of Appeal had dismissed the crimes against humanity charge.

Later, the lower court’s verdict was challenged by 11 former employees of Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) backed by NGOs at the Court of Cassation.