Written by 9 h 09 min Front page, International crimes, Labor rights and Modern slavery, Press release-en, Strategic litigation, Strengthening corporate accountability litigation

Uyghur forced labor: NGOs file new complaint requesting judicial investigation against garment companies

Paris, 17 May 2023 – After the dismissal of the complaint filed in April 2021 against Uniqlo, SMCP, Inditex, and Skechers USA for concealment of crimes against humanity, Sherpa, the Collectif Ethique sur l’étiquette, the European Uyghur Institute and a Uyghur plaintiff, filed a new complaint as civil parties to request the opening of a judicial investigation. 

Following the filing of a complaint against fashion brands in April 2021, the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecution Office had opened a preliminary investigation into concealment of crimes against humanity led by the Central Office for Combating Crimes against Humanity and Hate Crimes. On 12 April 2023, the Public prosecutor closed the inquiry, on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction to prosecute this type of offence. Our organisations regret this change of position of the prosecutor’s office, two years after they had decided to open an investigation on this specific legal ground.  

The complaint filed yesterday is based on the offence of concealment [1] of 4 crimes: crimes against humanity, genocide, aggravated bondage and human trafficking in an organised gang. NGOs are asking for a judicial investigation to be opened to shed light on the responsibilities of multinational garment companies allegedly profiting from Uyghurs forced labour for the manufacture of their products.    

20% of the world’s cotton production originates from the Uyghur region, so 1 in 5 cotton garments could be tainted by Uyghur forced labour. Multinational companies who use cotton from the region or resort to subcontractors benefiting from Chinese government programmes [2] cannot ignore that their products could be made with Uyghur forced labour. By marketing these products, the fashion industry is profiting from the serious crimes committed against this population

As the repression of Uyghurs persists, and in the face of the weak responses of third States, the courts could play a key part in shedding light on the responsibility of economic actors who could profit from the genocide.  


[1] The offense of concealment is the fact of holding or transferring a thing which comes from a crime, or to benefit from the proceeds of a crime, and is punishable under article 321-1 of the French Criminal Code.

[2] These “poverty alleviation” programs give subsidies to Chinese companies that use forced labor from the Uyghur population and participate in their forced transfer to other provinces. For more information.

Press release from:
Sherpa, Collectif Ethique sur l’Etiquette, and European Uyghur Institute.

For more information : presse@asso-sherpa.org 

Last modified: 17 May 2023