Civil lawsuit:French energy company EDF must comply with human rights obligations
Berlin/MexicoCity/Paris, 13 October 2020 –The energy giant Electricité de France (EDF) plans to build a wind farm on theland of the Mexican indigenous community Unión Hidalgo. The indigenouscommunity has not been appropriately consulted about the use of their land – aclear violation of their rights. Today, representatives of Unión Hidalgo, theMexican human rights organization ProDESC and the Berlin-based European Centerfor Constitutional and Human Rights filed a civil lawsuit in Paris urging EDFto respect Unión Hidalgo’s rights and suspend the Gunaa Sicarú wind park projectuntil the company complies with its vigilance obligation.
“Our ancestral land belongs to us.We, as a community, have the right to decide how it is used. EDF interferedwith decision-making in our community by trying to influence individual people.This led to division and violent conflict. People critical about the project –human rights and land rights defenders – have been threatened, stigmatized andcriminalized. We demand that EDF suspend the project until prior and freeconsultation takes place, and we agree to the project,” said GuadalupeRamirez who filed the lawsuit on behalf of her community Unión Hidalgo.
The NGOs CCFD-Terre Solidaire,Sherpa, Friends of the Earth France, the Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, SOMO, OECDWatch, and the Fair, Global and Green Alliance (FGG) advocate bindinglegislation for businesses to protect human rights and the environment, andsupport the Unión Hidalgo representatives, ProDESC and ECCHR in this endeavor.The Paris-based lawyers Julie Février and Hanna Rajbenbach represent the UniónHidalgo claimants, as well as ECCHR and ProDESC, in front of the Paris civilcourt.
Land-intensive infrastructureprojects on indigenous territories must respect human rights, in particular theright to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Indigenous communities areoften discriminated against and deprived of their rights. Therefore, underinternational and Mexican law, they are granted the right to be consulted if aproject is planned on their land. It is important that those responsible – thestate and the companies concerned – ensure that consultation processes are fairand free from undue pressure and manipulation. This includes ensuring thathuman rights defenders are protected from intimidation, harassment and physicalattacks.
“The French duty of vigilance lawobliges EDF to examine whether its business operations risk violating humanrights. If so, it must take measures to mitigate these risks. EDF is movingforward with the Gunaa Sicarú project even though it is resulting in serioushuman rights violations. The company must comply with France’s mandatory humanrights due diligence law. In case it cannot mitigate those risks, the projectshould be cancelled,” said Cannelle Lavite, legal advisor at ECCHR.
Guillermo Torres, senior lawyer atProDESC,added, “It is important that the company stops negotiating land leasingcontracts and requesting relevant licenses and permissions for its projectwithout the community’s prior and informed consent. By influencing theconsultation and offering incentives to individual supporters of the project,EDF and its Mexican subsidiary caused violence to escalate in Unión Hidalgo.Consequently, threats against and attacks on human rights and land rightsdefenders are increasing. We urge EDF to take measures to prevent furtherattacks on Unión Hidalgo human rights defenders. ”
“Even though it is the Mexican statethat has to implement the indigenous peoples rights, according to France’s dutyof vigilance law, companies like EDF are obliged to ensure that human rightsare respected in all of their transnational business operations and those oftheir business partners. The wind power industry is not free from theseobligations,” explained Swann Bommier, advocacy officer at CCFD-TerreSolidaire.
Sophie Rebours– firstname.lastname@example.org - +33 1 44 8280 64 / +33 7 61 37 38 65
LaurineGatefait – email@example.com - +33 6 04 4936 44
ECCHR: MichelleTrimborn – firstname.lastname@example.org - +49 1577 5723 737
ProDESC: Alan Hernández Pastén – email@example.com - +52 55 15 0324 10