Today, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) issued a briefing paper in which it calls on the international community to take urgent steps at national, regional and international levels to enhance standards and to ensure effective redress mechanisms are available for corporate-related human rights violations. The paper is based on five case studies, in Cambodia, Brazil, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The assessment of the effect of corporate activities on the human rights of individuals and communities in these five locations identified shortcomings in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), significant difficulties arising with their implementation, and protection gaps which need to be closed.
Access to justice remains an illusion for victims in all too many cases and in some countries, has even been made even more difficult as a result of recent reforms or judicial decisions. Rights holders continue to face tremendous challenges in ensuring that their human rights are respected and in receiving any measure of redressed when rights are violated.
“In 2013 alone, dozens of human rights defenders from all continents who put their lives at risk in defence of local communities and the environment were harassed and even assassinated in some cases.” Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General and Coordinator of Altsean-Burma
As illustrated by the case-studies, there are concerning limits to the UNGPs, notably their voluntary nature and divergent interpretations by stakeholders, the lack of robust guidance on legislative and policy measures States should take, and most importantly, obstacles in accessing justice and obtaining reparations.
“Those impacted by corporate-related human rights abuses are too often denied a remedy, despite efforts at the national and regional levels. To make real progress in ending these harms, FIDH calls for action at the international level to further clarify and codify existing obligations and ensure redress for corporate abuses.” Katherine Gallagher, FIDH Vice President and Senior Staff Attorney at the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
An overview of the case studies
In Cambodia, while the garment sector is mired in ongoing human rights violations and textile workers were violently repressed when striking to demand a living wage, Cambodian factories continue to ignore workers' rights while global brands profit from cheap labour.
In Brazil, mining company Vale has failed to exercise due diligence and continues to fail to address environmental and health impact caused by its business partners’ and its own activities. The communities of California and Piquiá de Baixo are still waiting to receive adequate reparation.
The Gaddafi regime in Libya allegedly used communication surveillance equipment supplied by the French company Amesys to spy on, and subsequently arrest, detain, and torture its opponents. The case highlights barriers in accessing justice following a criminal complaint filed by FIDH and LDH for alleged complicity in gross human rights violations.
In the DRC, 500 villagers whose homes were destroyed by the mining company CMSK are still waiting to receive compensation. Until 2012, Groupe Forrest International, headquartered in Belgium, had shares in CMSK through its subsidiary EGMF. The company continues to deny any responsibility in the demolitions. The mediation attempted by the Belgian OECD National Contact Point failed and villagers did not obtain compensation.
By directly profiting from the appropriation and exploitation of Palestinian land and Dead Sea natural resources in the OPT, the cosmetic company Ahava can be considered a primary perpetrator of the war crime of pillage. Israel has failed to prevent and prosecute the ongoing pillaging, and has facilitated such crime by licensing Ahava and granting financial benefits to the settlers who own nearly half of the company’s shares.
The briefing can be found at: http://www.fidh.org/en/globalisation-human-rights/14899-business-and-human-rights-fidh-calls-on-the-international-community-to