A French civil court ruled on Tuesday that a lawsuit brought by campaigners against energy major TotalEnergies over its oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania was inadmissible.
Under the case filed in 2019, six French and Ugandan activist groups had accused the company of not doing all it could to protect people and the environment from the Tilenga oil development and the $3.5 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline.
The campaigners wanted the court to order TotalEnergies to halt the east African projects, basing their case on a 2017 French law that requires companies to identify human rights and environmental risks in their global operations and supply chains, and to take measures to prevent them.
The Paris civil court dismissed the request, saying that only a judge examining the case more in depth could assess whether the accusations against TotalEnergies were founded, and to then proceed to an audit of operations on the ground.
TotalEnergies in a statement to Reuters said the court had found it “formally established a vigilance plan comprising the five items required by the duty of vigilance law, in sufficient detail so as not to be considered purely summary”.
The court in its ruling, the first based on the 2017 law, said nothing prevented France from enacting laws that govern the overseas activities of companies present in France.
TotalEnergies had argued a French court did not have jurisdiction over the overseas activities of its subsidiary TotalEnergies EP Uganda.
The campaigners can refile their suit as a standard trial, rather than the emergency fast-track procedure that was the basis of Tuesday’s ruling.
Friends of the Earth France said they reserved their right to further legal action.