Uniqlo and Inditex logos.

PARIS, FRANCE — Several rights groups announced on Wednesday that they have filed a new complaint in France against clothing giants Uniqlo and Inditex for allegedly profiting from the forced labour of the Uyghur minority in China.

Allegations made in the complaint filed on Tuesday include crimes against humanity, aggravated reduction to servitude, genocide and human trafficking.

It was filed by the anticorruption association Sherpa, the Ethique sur l’etiquette (Ethics on Labels) collective, the European Uyghur Institute and an Uyghur woman who had been held in a camp in Xinjiang, China.

An investigating judge is expected to be appointed in response to the filing.

The complainants say they want to bring to light “the possible responsibilities of clothing multinationals who profit from the forced labour of Uyghurs for the production of their products”, particularly cotton items.

A previous case filed to the national anti-terror prosecutor’s office in Paris, which looks into purported crimes against humanity, was dropped in April because it lacks “jurisdiction to prosecute the facts contained in the complaint”.

They had accused Uniqlo France, a subsidiary of Fast Retailing, along with Inditex, the Spanish owner of Zara and other brands, the French fashion group SMCP, and footwear manufacturer Skechers of marketing products that were manufactured at least in part at factories where Uyghurs are subjected to forced labour, according to rights groups.

They estimate the number of people in forced labour in China exceeds one million.

The plaintiffs also believe the companies do not have sufficient control over their subcontractors.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer William Bourdon hopes the French justice system will recognise their claim “on the basis of concealing crimes against humanity.”

“Textile companies must account for having knowingly enriched themselves, at the cost of the most serious international crimes”, he said, which is contrary to the ethical facade they present.

At the time of the first complaint, the fashion groups denied all claims of forced labour.

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

Washington and other countries have called the crackdown a “genocide” of Muslim Uyghurs and the UN’s High Commissioner of Rights has referred to their treatment as crimes against humanity.

The accusations have been rejected by Beijing, which presents the re-education centres condemned by the West as professional training centres to combat religious extremism and ensure social stability.

— AFP

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