An “unprecedented” criminal complaint against TotalEnergies for oil projects in Africa

2023-10-03 04:54:13

Four environmental defense associations announced that they had filed a complaint against the French oil group, for projects in Tanzania and Uganda. A first, according to their lawyers, who believe it is time “that the company be held responsible for its activities”.

According to Masters William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth, this is the first time that TotalEnergies has been criminally attacked, in other words to punish acts damaging to the company, and not only to obtain financial reparations.for facts resembling climaticide, and which, until now, had their place only before civil courts”. Unprecedented, the complaint targets several offenses: failure to combat a disaster, involuntary attacks on personal integrity, destruction, damage or deterioration of property belonging to others likely to create a danger for people, and even involuntary homicide .

It targets several very specific projects: in particular the construction of a heated oil pipeline of more than 1,400 kilometers, and the drilling of 400 oil wells in Uganda’s largest national park. Potentially lucrative investments but which, according to the associations, will lead to “significant population movements”, “a major impoverishment of local populations” and an irremediable impact on “many natural areas”. In short, a potential human and ecological disaster, which had already alarmed Human Rights Watch (the NGO denounced in July in a report a project “which has already devastated the livelihoods of thousands of people”).

The complaint was filed before the Nanterre judicial court last Friday on behalf of Sea Shepherd France, Darwin Climax Coalitions, Wild Legal and StopEACOP.

“Civil lawsuits do not intimidate big bosses”

“While the UN is concerned about the ongoing climate collapse, TotalEnergies must no longer continue to knowingly, freely and with impunity fuel climate change”estimate the lawyers of the associations in a press release. “It’s time the company was held accountable for its activities.” They hope that this change in the level of legal action, from civil to criminal, will force the company to reverse its decisions. “Civil lawsuits do not intimidate big bosses”, regrets William Bourdon. “The only thing that embarrasses them is the risk of indictment, a public trial, a criminal sanction and, ultimately, damage to their image.”

The associations believe that TotalEnergies’ new oil projects are not moving in the direction of History, and are instead moving backwards. These projects “are totally incompatible with the Paris agreement and lead us straight towards a warming of +3°C or +3.5°C leading to chaos”, according to their lawyers. They hope for a decision similar to that taken by the courts in the Netherlands, where the Shell group was sentenced to “reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030”.

For its part, the company responds that it “is not aware of this complaint and does not know what it targets”and ensures that she “conducts its operations in compliance with its operating standards and with laws and regulations”.

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