A German NGO has filed a complaint in the Netherlands for complicity in slavery and exploitation against several major clothing brands, including C&A and Nike.
In addition to the fashion brands mentioned above, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) is also accusing retailers Patagonia and State of Art. They argue that the brands are guilty of crimes against humanity because their production chains may be tied to cotton fields and garment factories in the Chinese Xinjiang region. International investigators have repeatedly stated that forced labour of the Uighur people is used on a large scale there. Because the brands have their headquarters in the Netherlands or are based there, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service could sue them, writes Dutch newspaper NRC.
C&A has already made a comment on the allegations saying that it does not purchase clothing, fabrics or yarn from manufacturers in Xinjiang. According to the ECCHR, there is no direct link: one of C&A's suppliers is said to be sourcing from a company in Shenzhen, which has links to Xinjiang through a subsidiary.
"Incentive to launch an investigation"
Lawyer Barbara van Straaten, who filed the report on behalf of the ECCHR, admits that there is no conclusive evidence. "More evidence will be needed before this can be brought to court. The monopoly of investigation lies, of course, with the government. ECCHR, therefore, sees this as an incentive for the prosecution to launch an investigation."
Patagonia has since announced that it will no longer purchase any cotton from China, including Xinjiang. State of Art and Nike Europe have not yet reacted to enquiries by the Dutch newspaper.