French energy group blamed for complicit in Ukraine war crimes

Two associations filed a complaint in Paris for complicity in war crimes, accusing the French group TotalEnergies of having continued to exploit a deposit in Russia and allowed the manufacture and export of fuel used by Russian planes involved in the conflict in Ukraine. The information was published this Friday (14), by the Agence France Presse (AFP).

The complaint was presented on Thursday (13) to the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office, competent for war crimes, by the French-based association Darwin Climax Coalition and by the Ukrainian association Razom We Stand. Questioned by AFP, the French energy group said these were “outrageous”, “defamatory” and “unfounded” accusations.

The complaint highlights that TotalEnergies held, until September, 49% of Terneftegaz, which explores the Termokarstovoye deposit, in the extreme north of Russia. The remaining 51% belonged to the Russian group Novatek, of which TotalEnergies is also a shareholder of 13, 4%.

Furthermore, according to an article in the French newspaper Le Monde, published in 25 of In August, based on documents and an investigation by the NGO Global Witness, the Termokarstovoye gas field supplied gas to a refinery near Omsk, Siberia, that produced fuel sent to power Russian planes involved in the conflict in Ukraine. This happened, at least, until July, when the war completed 5 months.

Two days after the article was published, the French energy giant indicated that it had decided to sell its 49% at Terneftegaz for Novatek. The sale was finalized in September.

According to the associations that denounce the French group, “by continuing to explore the Termokarstovoie field” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, launched in 24 in February, TotalEnergies “has contributed to providing the Russian government with the necessary means to commit war crimes”, as the Russian army “clearly launched airstrikes against civilians”.

The concept of complicity in a war crime

The legal concept of “complicity in a war crime” exists in international law. It is in article 25.3 of the Rome Statute, which defines the different ways that complicity can happen.

What would address the situation of TotalEnergies is as follows: “Pursuant to this Statute, a person is criminally liable and may be punished for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if (…) for the purpose of facilitating the commission of such crime, he assists, incites or otherwise in committing or attempting to commit this crime, including providing the means to commit this crime.”

However, in the same article of the Rome Statute, the founding text of the International Criminal Court, a condition is presented for establish complicity: “This contribution must be intentional”, the text recalls.

“It would therefore be necessary to demonstrate that Total contributed to the realization of such a war crime consciously and deliberately” , explains Xavier Philippe, Paris I professor of International Humanitarian Law, to the French newspaper Le Figaro. “In terms of evidence, the mere presence of a French company in a country at war seems very light to me”, he concludes.

TotalEnergie, in turn, refuted the allegations. “These accusations are an insult to the integrity of our teams,” the group said in a statement.

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