Written by 14 h 50 min -Press release-en, Front page, Labor rights and Modern slavery, Strategic litigation, Strengthening corporate accountability

Forced labor of Uyghurs: filing of a complaint in France against multinationals for concealment of forced labor and crimes against humanity*

Paris, April 12th,2021 Sherpa, the Collectif Ethique sur l’étiquette, the Uyghur Institute of Europe and an Uyghur victim, represented by the law firm Bourdon & Associés, are filing a complaint with the Paris Prosecutor Office against several multinationals in the garment industry that may be involved, through their suppliers, in the forced labor imposed on the Uyghur population.

The complaint targets a large number of brands and distributors in the fashion sector and exposes the impunity of transnational corporations that profit from these crimes through their modus operandi and business model.

Since at least 2019, journalists and researchers have highlighted the existence of systematized forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the Chinese government, where nearly 20% of the world’s cotton is produced.

However, according to public information available to date, the companies Inditex (including the brands Zara, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Massimo Dutti etc.), Uniqlo, SMCP (including Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot, De Fursac) and Skechers, as well as many other transnational companies, continue to subcontract part of their production or to market goods using cotton produced in the region, thus knowingly taking advantage in their value chain of the workforce in a region where crime against humanity are being perpetrated. 

Supported by Members of European Parliament Raphaël Glucksmann and Reinhart Butickhofer, as well as by the World Uyghur Congress, our organizations are submitting this complaint to shed light on the role played by multinational companies in the crimes committed against the Uyghur people and to enable French courts to rule on their possible criminal liability.

This complaint is the first of a series of filings organized by ECCHR (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights) that will be filed in the coming months in other European countries. This planned series demonstrates that this is not an issue of individual companies but demonstrates how closely and systematically European businesses are involved in the allegedly systematic and state-sponsored forceful exploitation of labour in the XUAR region.

It is in line with the long-standing advocacy of our organizations to fight against the impunity of transnational corporations and to improve access to justice and remedies for victims. The upcoming draft European legislation on the duty of vigilance, which will be made public by the Commission in the coming months, should address these crucial issues.

*Concealment of the crime of aggravated bondage, crime of human trafficking in an organized gang, crime of genocide and crime against humanity.

Last modified: 12 April 2021
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