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SYRIA

French firm Lafarge charged with complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria

French cement giant Lafarge was charged Thursday with complicity in crimes against humanity and financing a terrorist organisation for paying millions to jihadist groups, including Isis, to keep a factory in Syria open during the war.

French firm Lafarge charged with complicity in crimes against humanity in  Syria
Photo: AFP
A legal source said the company, which paid the armed groups through middlemen, has also been charged with endangering the lives of former employees at the cement plant in Jalabiya, northern Syria.
   
French rights group Sherpa, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said it was the first time that a company anywhere in the world had been charged with complicity in crimes against humanity.
   
The allegations against Lafarge, which merged with Swiss firm Holcim in 2015, are the most serious against a French company in years.
   
Lafarge was ordered to hand over 30 million euros ($35 million) to authorities as a security deposit ahead of the trial.
   
Eight Lafarge executives, including former CEO Bruno Laffont, have already been charged with financing a terrorist group and/or endangering the lives of others over Lafarge's activities in Syria between 2011 and 2015.
   
Lafarge is suspected of paying nearly 13 million euros ($16 million) to IS and other militant groups to keep the Jalabiya plant running long after other French companies had pulled out of Syria.
   
Sherpa hailed the decision to charge the company, saying it was “a decisive step in the fight against the impunity of multinationals operating in armed conflict zones”.
 
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Ex-Lafarge boss charged with 'endangering lives' in SyriaPhoto: AFP

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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