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French courts have dropped an investigation into allegations that four fashion retailers used forced Uighur labor to supply China.

The national anti-terror prosecutor’s office in Paris, which investigates alleged crimes against humanity, said it had closed its investigation.

A new complaint?

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, William Bourdon, told the French news agency AFP that they would file a new complaint.

In 2021, judges began hearing claims that multinational companies, including Uniqlo and the owner of Zara, were complicit in crimes against humanity.

The case was based on a complaint filed by the anti-corruption group Sherpa, the French branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Uyghur Institute of Europe, as well as a Uyghur woman in a camp in Xinjiang, China. .

They accused Inditex, the Spanish owner of Zara and other top brands, Uniqlo, French fashion group SMCP and shoe maker Skechers of using cotton produced in the Xinjiang region.

Rights groups estimate that at least one million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in camps in the Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labor.

The allegations follow a March 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an NGO.

“Lack of Jurisdiction”

On April 12, the prosecutor’s office sent a letter to the plaintiffs in which they announced that they were discontinuing the investigation due to the lack of “jurisdiction to prosecute the facts set forth in the complaint.”

All four fashion groups denied the allegations at the time, and Inditex said it had strict tracking controls in place.

Uniqlo said it carried out checks through third parties to ensure that its suppliers did not violate human rights.

SMCP said on Thursday it had always denied the allegations and believed the investigation was stopped “after the SMCP group name and its brands were removed in October 2022” from the Australian NGO’s report.