PARIS (Reuters) – Four environmental associations have filed a criminal complaint in France against TotalEnergies, accusing the oil giant of “involuntary manslaughter” with an oil pipeline under development in Uganda and other fossil energy projects.

Darwin Climax Coalitions, Sea Shepherd France, Wild Legal and Stop Total in Uganda indicated that they had filed a complaint before the Nanterre judicial court against TotalEnergies’ “climaticidal action”.

They criticize the French group for having approved more fossil energy projects than any other giant in the sector for the period 2022-2025, including a $3.5 billion oil pipeline in Uganda – East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) – to help the East African country export its oil to international markets.

“Given the climate emergency and the planetary issues that arise from it, it is no longer possible that companies driven by a vision of short-term profit can still mortgage the future of all with impunity,” declared the director of Sea Shepherd France in a press release.

“Recognizing the criminal liability of Total in its climate-killing strategy is a huge step forward towards necessary climate justice, the only way to stop the phenomenon,” added Lamya Essemlali.

The four associations accuse TotalEnergies of “failure to combat a disaster”, “involuntary homicide”, “involuntary attacks on personal integrity” and “destruction or damage to property belonging to others of a nature to create a danger for people.

Filed on September 22 before the Nanterre judicial court, the complaint could lead to the opening of a formal investigation.

A spokeswoman for TotalEnergies said the group was not informed of the complaint. “The company conducts its operations in compliance with its operating standards and with laws and regulations,” she said in an email, adding that TotalEnergies would respond if necessary to requests from the authorities.

According to Human Rights Watch, the EACOP project, in which TotalEnergies holds a 62% stake, has “devastated” the lives of thousands of people who were delayed, or insufficiently, compensated for their land. The NGO also estimated that the project was a disaster for the planet because it would release emissions that would amplify climate change.

TotalEnergies rejected HRW’s accusations, made in July, ensuring that it respected all the rights of those affected by the project.

(Report by Juliette Jabkhiro and Dominique Vidalon, written by Jean Terzian, edited by Kate Entringer)

Copyright © 2023 Thomson Reuters