French Case Filed Against Corporation for Complicity in Torture in Libya

French Case Filed Against Corporation for Complicity in Torture in Libya


Today FIDH and LDH filed a criminal complaint, together with an application to join the proceedings as a civil party against persons unknown before the Court in Paris concerning the responsibility of the company Amesys, a subsidiary of Bull, in relation to acts of torture perpetrated in Libya. This complaint concerns the provision, since 2007, of communication surveillance equipment to Gaddafi’s regime, intended to keep the Libyan population under surveillance.

Up until now, there has been very little activity in foreign courts seeking to sue or hold companies legally liable for violations of international law. I actually can’t tell from this report what the basis of the allegation is though, since it sounds like it is a claim that the company has violated French law criminalizing torture, and not a direct assertion of a violation of international law. Still, if anyone has access to the complaint, please post it in the comments or email it to me so I can post it (it should give me a chance to practice my French!)

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[…] reported by Opinio Juris this morning (see here, FIDH and LDH have just filed a criminal complaint concerning the responsibility of the company […]

Martin Holterman

Remember, in civil law countries there’s only one tort:

Tout fait quelconque de l’homme, qui cause à autrui un dommage, oblige celui par la faute duquel il est arrivé à le réparer.

Fundamentally, there’s no reason why this cannot cover violations of international law as well as violations of national law, subjective rights, duty of care, etc. However, that presupposes that the tort in question has sufficient nexus to France (in this case) and that the international law rule has direct effect. In cases where both those things are true, normally there will be a national statute settling the matter, as there seems to be here. But conceptually, I don’t see the problem. There’s certainly no need for something like an ATS to make this explicit.

Martin Holterman

For comparison, it might be interesting to look at the Dutch Rawagedeh case, which I blogged about in English <a href=””>here</a> and <a href=””>here</a>. This was a case about war crimes in Java in 1947, but in Dutch court this is technically just a wrongful death suit, with the war crimes angle coming in when the details are concerned. (There was a statute of limitations problem, for example.)

That’s how I would argue a torture case, too: it’s assault and/or wrongful death, depending on the circumstances, with international law coming in at most to fix any jurisdictional issues, as well as to increase the damages award.