The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and Amnesty International are pleased to offer the following project updates as of 13 April.
- Joint Statement announcing collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), Amnesty International, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are pleased to announce their intention to collaborate on research and consultation activities relating to the legal and practical challenges faced by domestic prosecution authorities in cases of allegations of business involvement in severe human rights abuses.
In November 2014, pursuant to its mandate from the Human Rights Council under Resolution 26/22, OHCHR has launched a programme of work targeted at enhancing accountability and access to remedy, the aim of which is to develop reliable and credible guidance for States as to how they can contribute to a fairer and more effective system of domestic law remedies, particularly in cases of gross human rights abuses (the “OHCHR Project”). This programme of work comprises six work-streams selected because of their strategic value and potential to improve accountability from a practical, victim-centered perspective. Project 6 of this initiative relates to the legal and practical challenges faced by domestic prosecution authorities in relation to cases of allegations of business involvement in gross human rights abuses.
On 26 February 2014, ICAR and Amnesty International launched a joint project entitled “Commerce, Crime and Human Rights: Closing the Prosecution Gaps” which seeks to “develop recommendations for State practice in addressing … prosecution gaps for corporate crimes” (“the ICAR/Amnesty Project”). This project will result in of a set of principles for State action, endorsed by leading jurists and prosecutors.
In light of the similarity between these two projects, OHCHR, ICAR, and Amnesty International wish to explore ways to collaborate to make the best use of existing resources and know-how, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ongoing research, to reduce the likely burden on contributors to these projects and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. The scope of the collaboration is limited to information-gathering and consultations with stakeholders, and will not result in joint recommendations or outcomes.
- ABA coordination of prosecutor surveys
ICAR and Amnesty International are also pleased to announce that they have established a coordination with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative and Center for Human Rights. Through this coordination, the organizations will survey prosecutors from multiple jurisdictions regarding their experience with criminal, administrative, or regulatory enforcement actions against corporations for alleged illegal activities. The survey includes questions regarding challenges and incentives to bringing these actions, and asks about the most effective role NGOs can play in promoting these actions. The survey may be found here. Please feel free to circulate it to relevant authorities. The information gathered will be used to assist the CCHR Independent Commission of Experts in developing the Principles for State Action. The identity of all participants will be kept confidential.
- In-person consultations with prosecutors
The project team is currently planning a series of in-person consultations with prosecutors in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Each of the three consultations will take place in the week of May 28-22. These in person consultations will enable the project team to make a deeper inquiry into the same information asked of prosecutors through the ABA surveys, and to workshop potential solutions with participants. More information about the consultations will be forthcoming.
- Paper by Mark Taylor under development
Mark Taylor of the Fafo Institute has developed a paper to communicate the human rights dimensions of enforcement actions against business entities available under existing public law provisions (including criminal, administrative, and regulatory law) in most countries. The paper is currently undergoing final editing, and will be made available for an online public consultation in the coming weeks. The paper will be available on the project website.
- Independent Commission of Experts meeting
The Independent Commission of Experts for the Commerce, Crime, and Human Rights project will convene for the first time at the end of June 2015. At this meeting, the Commission will consider the above referenced paper by Mark Taylor as well as inputs to the project gathered by ICAR and Amnesty International from civil society organizations, prosecutors, and other law enforcement authorities. The Commission will further use the meeting to begin to develop Principles for State Action, recommendations of how States can act to overcome the challenges to holding businesses accountable for crimes that are linked to human rights violations or that are human rights violations themselves.
- Project presentation at the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice
ICAR will present on the Commerce, Crime and Human Rights Project at a side event to the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The side event, organized by Advocats Sans Frontières, is titled, “The Role of Tunisia’s Justice System in Democracy-Building” and will take place on Tuesday, 14 April 2015, at 17:00 in Doha, Qatar.
In June 2014, the Monastir Court of First Instance ruled against five Tunisian companies, all members of the Belgian textile group Jacques Bruynooghe Global (JBG), for non-compliance with social legislation. The 311 workers won their case and were granted almost all of the benefits owed to them: back-pay, bonuses and compensation for unfair dismissal, totaling over four million Tunisian dinars (€1.8 million). However, to date this judgment has not been executed; due to opaque financial arrangements, the Tunisian subsidiaries of the JBG group are considered bankrupt and the defendant JBG has no physical or financial presence in Tunisia. Workers were able to access the justice system, but have not received remedy.
Using this case as a jumping off point, the ICAR presentation will focus on the link between public law and human rights protection, and seek insight from participants as to the challenges prosecutors (in any forum) face when dealing with allegations that companies have committed or are complicit in crimes linked to human rights violations.