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France drops fashion groups probe over Uyghur forced labour

By RFI

May 5, 2023


French magistrates have dropped a probe into allegations that four fashion retailers were sourcingsupplies in China involving the forced labour of the Uyghur population.


The national anti-terror prosecutor's offi ce in Paris, which looks into purported crimes against humanity,said it had halted the investigation.


New complaint?


The plaintiffs' lawyer William Bourdon told French news agency AFP they would fi le a new complaint.


Magistrates had in 2021 started looking into claims the multinational companies, including Uniqlo and theowner of Zara, were complicit in crimes against humanity.


The case was based on a complaint lodged by the anti-corruption group


org/mandate), the French branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign (https://cleanclothes.org/)

,and the Uyghur Institute of Europe, as well as by a Uyghur woman who had been held in a camp inXinjiang, China.


They accused Inditex, the Spanish owner of Zara and other top brands, Uniqlo, the French fashion groupSMCP, and the footwear manufacturer Skechers of using cotton produced in the Xinjiang region.


France probes fashion giants for 'crimes against humanity' in Uyghur camps (http://www.rfi .fr/en/france/20210702-france-probes-fashion-giants-for-crimes-againsthumanity-in-uyghur-labour-camps-china-xianjing).


Rights groups believe at least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have beenincarcerated in camps in the Xinjiang region, where China has also been accused of forcibly sterilisingwomen and imposing forced labour.


The allegations followed a March 2020 report (https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale)


by a non-governmental organisation called the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

'Lack of jurisdiction'


On 12 April, the prosecutor's offi ce sent the plaintiffs a letter telling them that it was halting the investigationas it lacks "jurisdiction to prosecute the facts contained in the complaint".


All four fashion groups at the time rejected the accusations, with Inditex saying it had strict traceabilitycontrols in place.


Uniqlo said it carried out inspections via third parties to ensure it suppliers were not violating human rights.


SMCP said on Thursday that it had always denied the allegations, and that it believed the probe wasdropped "after the name of the SMCP group and its brands were removed in October 2022" from theAustralian NGO report.



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