Closing the gap on the torture trade
by Joëlle A. Trampert
2D Structure of Sodium thiopental, a pharmaceutical chemical employed in lethal injection execution. Source: Pubchem, National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information (https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/23665410)
The prohibition of torture is codified in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the regional human rights treaties. It has also been accepted as an international human rights norm of ius cogens. The Convention Against Torture (‘CAT’) obliges the 171 States party to the treaty to prevent and punish torture, and refrain from expelling, refouling or extraditing a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture. But as Ambassador Skoog, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, remarked in his introductory speech for the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade online event last December, ‘there is no rule at the international level to regulate the trade in goods used for torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. (…).’ More...
Shell/Nigeria: the fight over secondary liability of parent companies over corporate human rights violations by their subsidiaries
By Nicky Touw
Secondary liability of parent companies for actions conducted by their foreign subsidiaries is a highly contentious topic in civil litigation. Where some see it as an inevitable necessity to rebalance inequality in case of corporate human rights violations, others argue that it is an inappropriate, even abusive, means of using the law to file for damages away from the appropriate forum. Judges in Global North countries grapple with this issue in different ways and the cases are being litigated all the way up to the highest national courts. This blog offers a short overview and discussion of the possible impact of a number of landmark decisions in the UK and the Netherlands shedding more light on the parent-subsidiary relationship in the search of accountability for human rights violations committed by, or with the assistance of, businesses. More...
Climate change as a business and human rights issue
by Stephanie Triefus
source: Markus Spiske via Unsplash
Climate change is increasingly understood as an issue that entails responsibility from all organs of society, including businesses. Law is one of the tools being picked up by activists and affected communities to hold the largest polluters accountable for their contribution to climate change and its devastating impacts.
On 15 October 2020, the NNHRR Business and Human Rights Working Group held an online panel discussion on the intersection between climate change and business and human rights. As climate change has only recently started to be integrated into the business and human rights debate, this event aimed to bring in the voices of scholars and practitioners who are tackling corporate and state accountability for climate change from different perspectives. The panelists included Annalisa Savaresi (University of Stirling), Damilola Olawuyi (Hamad Bin Khalifa University) and David Birchall (University of Nottingham Business School, Ningbo). This blog recaps the ideas put forward by the panellists in their presentations and insightful discussions with the audience through the Q&A session. A recording of the event and the panelists' slides can be found on the NNHRR website.
Source: Marquise Kamanke
Trade Policy Division, Department of Commerce, Government of India*
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
The Vedanta case and the Nigeria Shell case are some of the most celebrated cases where victims have exercised their right of access to remedy by approaching the appropriate forum to prevent, investigate, punish and redress business-related human rights abuses such as causing injuries, death, environmental damages, etc. The right of victims to have access to remedy is one of the central notions for establishing corporate accountability and is also widely acknowledged under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The open-ended UN intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG) that is entrusted with the task to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on Business and Human Rights, released a Second Revised Draft legally binding instrument on business activities and human rights on 6th August 2020 (Second Revised Draft). The Second Revised Draft has incorporated the concept of ‘access to remedy’ under its several operative clauses laying down substantial and procedural requirements for State Parties and corporations to ensure effective access to remedy for victims.
Source: Rock Cohen, Flickr
University of Groningen
Following the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), human rights due diligence (HRDD) was established as the preeminent standard by which companies approach adverse human rights impacts resulting from their activities. Until recently companies that carry out HRDD have done so voluntarily against the backdrop of non-legal, incentive-based initiatives which promote HRDD. Now, there is a growing push towards legal measures, at various levels, to make HRDD mandatory. Mandatory due diligence (mHRDD) refers to a legal mechanism which imposes a “legal standard of care” where businesses would be legally mandated to take reasonable action [due diligence] to prevent adverse impacts on human rights and the environment.