in Democratic Republic of Congo
Why was a legal action brought against Perenco?
Perenco is a multinational oil company specialized in the operation of end-of-life oil wells. It is the sole oil operator present in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Numerous reports and investigations from the Congolese Senate, local and international civil society organisations (CSOs) denounce serious environmental harms and impacts on the rights of the neighbouring communities.
Sherpa and Friends of the Earth France have been investigating for many years the involvement of the French company Perenco S.A. in oil activities carried out by the group in the DRC. Due to the opacity of the operations and corporate structure of the oil company, they initiated an action using a specific provision (Article 145 of the French Code of Civil Procedure) to collect additional evidence about the links between Perenco S.A. and the companies operating locally in the DRC. In 2019, they obtained an ex parte order authorising them to have evidence seized from the premises of Perenco S.A., but the company refused to execute it by blocking the access of the bailiff to its office. The CSOs then renewed their request and, faced with the refusal of the first judges and then of the Court of appeal, they appealed to the Court of cassation which ruled in their favour in 2022. The Court of cassation judged that the possibility for the CSOs to file the case was to be decided according to French law, and not foreign law as the company had argued.
Following this initial “pre-trial” action Sherpa and Friends of the Earth France, supported by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA-US), took legal action against the company Perenco S.A before the Paris Court in November 2022. They ask that Perenco S.A. be ordered to remedy the environmental damage caused in the DRC. They also ask the Court to order the company to take measures in order to end environmental harms and prevent any future damages to the environment.
Sherpa recalls that any person accused or prosecuted by a national or international jurisdiction is presumed innocent until found guilty by a final court decision. In this respect, an appealable decision does not constitute a final decision.
First judicial request
In order to obtain more information about the links between the French company Perenco S.A. and the companies operating locally in the DRC, Sherpa and Friends of the Earth France filed an ex parte request before the Court of Paris.
The Court granted access to internal documents of the company
The Court of Paris authorized the CSOs to have evidence seized from the premises of Perenco S.A. by a bailiff.
Perenco S.A. refused to enforce the Court’s decision
The company refused to give access to its premises and to hand over the requested documents to the bailiff designated by the Court.
New judicial request to obtain evidence
Due to the company’s refusal to enforce the Court’s decision, Sherpa and Friends of the Earth France renewed their request before the Court
The judicial request is dismissed
This time, the Paris Court ruled that the CSO’s had no legitimate reason (“motif légitime”) for such a request. The CSO’s claims were dismissed.