Written by 16 h 20 min Labor rights and Modern slavery, Press release-en, Strategic litigation

Procedures & Milestones : COMILOG Faces a Group of Former Employees

November 9, 2007:  867 former employees of COMILOG (beneficiaries), represented by maître Eric Moutet, the lawyer responsible for the case and Sherpa’s representative, subpoena COMILOG, COMILOG FRANCE, COMILOG INTERNATIONAL, and COMILOG HOLDING to appear before the Labor Relations Court of Paris for wrongful termination of work contracts;

October 8, 2008:  First hearing before the Conciliation Board of the Labor Relations Court of Paris.  However, due to the absence of one of the lawyers for the company, the hearing is postponed until June 22, 2009.

Please note: The purpose of this first phase of arbitration is to gather the parties to a conflict together in order to reach an agreement (only if arbitration fails is the case remanded before the Adjudication Panel).

June 22, 2009:  Second hearing before the Conciliation Board of the Labor Relations Court of Paris.

COMILOG and the other defendant companies in the case raise the following issues: the nullity of the claim, the irregularity of the mandates, the French courts’ lack of jurisdiction, a case already pending (two courts called on to adjudicate the same dispute) with proceedings under way in Congo Republic, inadmissibility due to the force of res judicata or the period of prescription, as well as a serious dispute over the principle and amount of damages requested.  COMILOG maintains that it lost French nationality when Congo Republic became independent or, at the latest, with the OHADA Uniform Act of April 17, 1997.

Train COMILOG - © Georges Dougueli

COMILOG train accident in Congo Brazzaville © Georges Dougueli

The appellants contest these arguments on the basis of Article 15 of the Civil Code and affirm that COMILOG did not lose its original French nationality. Even if the judges feel that the company does not have French nationality, the French courts could assert their international jurisdiction based on the denial of justice in the Congolese courts;

January 26, 2011Judgment by the Labor Relations Court rejecting the petition by the Congolese workers on the grounds that the French courts have no jurisdiction over the dispute.  The Board rejects the company’s French nationality on the basis of Article 15 of the Civil Code on the grounds that there is significant evidence establishing the Ogooué Mining Company’s real headquarters, a criterion for nationality under Article 15 of the Civil Code, to be in Gabon.

On the other hand, the Conciliation Board rejects the French court’s international jurisdiction based on the denial of justice on the grounds that it has not been established that Gabonese judicial authorities are unable to rule on this dispute.

What’s more, given the absence of sufficient proof in the brief, the Labor Relations Court does not address the issue of liability for COMILOG France and COMILOG INTERNATIONAL in the wrongful termination.

Yet, the civil party routinely asked the Labor Relations Court to instruct these two companies to produce probative documents showing a link between the parent companies in France and the Gabon subsidiaries (e.g. COMILOG FRANCE and COMILOG INTERNATIONAL statutes, board meeting minutes, annual reports, etc.), a request that so far remains unanswered;

April 11, 2013Appeal hearing before the Court of Appeals of Paris.  Léopold Moukouyou, president of the Group of Former Workers of COMILOG, was unable to attend due to a late refusal of his visa;

The plaintiff maintains that the Labor Relations Court of Paris has jurisdiction and therefore requests that COMILOG be subject to payment of damages and interest and that COMILOG FRANCE and COMILOG INTERNATIONAL be ordered to hand over various documents.

The Public Prosecutor rejects the argument based on COMILOG’s French nationality but is sympathetic to the denial of justice.  A decision by the Court of Appeals is expected on June 20, 2013;

June 20, 2013Decision by the Paris Court of Appeals, which pronounces the French courts competent to rule on the claims against COMILOG FRANCE and COMILOG INTERNATIONAL, and instructs, therefore, these companies to submit the required documents.  As for the argument that the French courts have jurisdiction with regard to COMILOG, the Court reserves judgment until such time as it has received the documents.

Regarding the case already pending and the force of res judicata invoked by COMILOG, in the Court’s view, the company has not proven that a proceeding is currently before the Congolese courts.  Above all, the current proceeding involves two new defendants, COMILOG FRANCE and COMILOG INTERNATIONAL, and cannot therefore refer to the same dispute as the parties are not the same.

The Court remands the parties to a new hearing set for June 5, 2014, where disclosure documents will be considered.


Last modified: 17 December 2019