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Uniqlo and Inditex sued for forced labor of Uyghur Muslims


Rights groups announced Wednesday that they have filed a new complaint in France against major clothing companies Uniqlo and Inditex on suspicion of profiting from the forced labor of the Uighur minority in China.

The allegations in the complaint, which was filed on Tuesday, include crimes against humanity, enslavement, genocide and human trafficking.

The lawsuit was brought by the Sherpa Anti-Corruption Association, the Ethics on Labels Group, the European Uyghur Institute and a Uyghur woman who was being held in a camp in Xinjiang, China.

The complainants say they want to highlight “the potential responsibilities of multinational clothing companies that take advantage of the forced labor of Uyghurs to make their products,” particularly cotton clothing.

A previous case brought to the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office in Paris, which is looking into alleged crimes against humanity, was dropped in April because it “does not have the authority to consider the facts contained in the complaint”.

The plaintiffs accused Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo France subsidiary, Spanish owner of Zara and other brands, French fashion group SMCP and shoemaker Skechers of marketing products that were at least partially manufactured in factories where Uyghurs are forcibly employed, according to rights groups.

They estimate the number of forced laborers in China to be more than one million.

The complainants also find that the companies do not have sufficient control over their subcontractors.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, William Bourdon, hopes that the French judiciary will recognize their case “on the grounds of concealing crimes against humanity.”

“Textile companies should be held accountable for knowingly enriching themselves at the expense of the most serious international crimes,” he said, which contradicts the moral façade they present.

Upon filing the first complaint, the fashion groups denied all accusations of forced labor.

In addition to the four companies, other major brands such as Nike have faced similar accusations.

Responding to the latest complaint, Inditex said, “These accusations are baseless.”

“The company has strict traceability controls to ensure the provenance of its products and has a policy that categorically rejects any kind of forced labour,” SMCP said.

SMCP responded, telling AFP it had “already denied these accusations in the most firm manner”.

She added that she expected her name to be dropped from the lawsuit because she was pursuing previous allegations stemming from a March 2020 report from the Institute for Strategic Policy that eventually delisted SMCP and other sets of its findings.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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