C&A under fire from Chinese cotton critics, German NGO takes legal action


A Dutch courtroom. Photo: Odi Busman

A German human rights group has taken legal action against clothing company C&A and several other brands in the Netherlands, accusing them of complicity in human rights abuses in China.

Similar cases are also ongoing in Germany and France, but this is the first of its kind in the Netherlands, according to lawyer Barbara van Straaten of the Prakken d’Oliveir law firm, who filed a complaint. on behalf of ECCHR.

The campaign group wants the Dutch prosecution to investigate alleged corporate complicity in human rights violations that it believes could amount to crimes against humanity.

Tens of thousands of members of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Muslim minority are reportedly forced to harvest cotton and make clothes – which are also sold in the European market via international supply chains.

“The choice not only to focus on the national criminal law concerning labor exploitation, but to widen the complaint to crimes against humanity, underlines the scale of the crimes that are being committed in Xinjiang,” Van said. Straaten. “It is also in line with statements by politicians and NGOs calling the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang genocide and crimes against humanity.”

Socks

According to the NRC, the claims relate to socks from C&A, sneakers from Nike, outerwear produced by Patagonia and men’s fashion from State of Art.

C&A told the NRC that it did not buy any clothes, fabrics or threats from factories in Xinjiang.

However, the ECCHR says there is strong evidence that cotton yarns made its way into C&A socks via intermediaries. While the evidence is not waterproof, suspicion alone is enough to justify legal action, Van Straaten said.

Patagonia told the newspaper that the company did not buy cotton from China, State of Art said it was unable to respond, and Nike did not respond to requests for statements.

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