YEAR 2021 N.º 3

ISSN 2182-9845

The Lafarge case: tackling corporate impunity in the battlefield

Benedita Sequeira


Lafarge; corporate criminal liability; business and human rights; international humanitarian law; international criminal law; corporate responsibility.


The Lafarge case, brought before French criminal justice against parent company Lafarge, incorporated in France, and its Syrian subsidiary, Lafarge Cement Syria, for the actions of the latter in the context of the Syrian Civil War, is an important milestone in the tackling of corporate human rights and international humanitarian law harms in the battlefield context. The company stands accused of complicity in war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of financing terrorism and deliberate endangerment of people’s lives. The case under analysis, which awaits a decision from the French Supreme Court, sheds light on the difficulties in accessing justice and establishing corporate criminal responsibility. Throughout this paper we will explore these challenges, namely by analysing: the norms which regulate corporate conduct with regard to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, corporate criminal liability under international criminal law, the difficulties in proving complicity in the commission of these crimes and in holding the parent company liable for acts carried out by its subsidiary. 

Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. The facts
3. Legal challenges posed in the Lafarge case
3.1. What obligations for companies operating in an armed conflict context?
a) The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
b) The Corporate Responsibility to Respect International Humanitarian Law
3.2. Business responsibility under International Criminal Law
3.3. Corporate Criminal Liability under the French Legal System
3.4. Complicity in the crimes perpetrated by ISIS
3.5. Holding the parent company liable
4. Conclusion