Access to Justice
Corporate malpractice has major implications for individuals and communities. For example, oil spills from Shell pipelines in Nigeria are estimated to have affected the lives of 11,000 people. Environmental contamination can be devastating for people who rely on agriculture or fishing to make a living. When incidents like these happen, the companies concerned must be held to account and affected people must be able to access justice.
CORE has been involved in collaborative work with its US and European counterparts in commissioning research looking at Access to Judicial Remedy, alongside research and analysis on non-judicial remedial mechanisms. More recently, we have worked practically on this issue by holding workshops on access to documents and information, and on the proposed mine in Phulbari and the campaign against it.
When corporations abuse human rights or damage the environment, it’s vital that the people who are affected can seek redress from the company concerned. Redress can range from an apology and guarantees that the abuse will not happen again, through to financial compensation and commitments to carry out environmental clean-ups. Providing redress is important for corporations as well as affected people and communities because it creates a culture of respect for human rights and the environment and leads to improved corporate practice.
Ideally, people should be able to access justice in their own country but various legal and practical barriers mean that this is often impossible. For this reason, CORE wants to see the following changes:
- Where a UK-linked business is accused of violating human rights or damaging the environment overseas, the UK courts should be able to hear the case. As a consequence of changes introduced in 2012 as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, this is now practically impossible. CORE campaigned against these changes and we want the system to be reformed to ensure people are not shut out of the courts.
- The UK Government should establish an effective non-judicial redress mechanism for overseas victims of corporate human rights abuses.
In this video Shanta Martin of Leigh Day discusses some of the issues surrounding wrongdoing by UK corporations overseas and barriers to justice for those affected:
The Third Pillar
Victims of human rights abuses experience several barriers to judicial remedy in the home states of corporations. This joint project with the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) and the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) builds on existing work exposing these common barriers. The report identifies the most feasible solutions and recommendations to improve access to judicial remedy in the US, the UK, and certain EU countries. The final project report was launched in December 2013.
Council of Europe Process
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a set of Recommendations to its member States on Business and Human Rights, which focuses on access to remedy. CORE represented the European Coalition for Corporate Justice in the drafting group meetings, together with FIDH, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists. The agreement is a significant achievement and if adequately implemented, can contribute to an enhanced system of legal accountability of business enterprises involved in human rights abuses and access to effective remedy for those who suffer harm. For more details on the process please visit here.
Evaluating Redress Mechanisms project
Together with the University of Essex, CORE was a UK partner in a five-year research project coordinated by academics at the University of Melbourne, Australia. The research highlighted the shortcomings of voluntary initiatives and nonjudicial redress mechanisms following poor corporate practice, including those coordinated by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and government-run UK National Contact Point (NCP).
ETI is an alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that focuses on improving working conditions in company supply chains. Member companies include Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Tesco, Primark and Zara. The UK NCP is a complaints body based in the Department for International Trade that assesses allegations of corporate abuse.
The report raises concerns about the impact of voluntary codes in changing company practices, calling instead for the introduction of mandatory human rights due diligence for companies. This should be accompanied by victims’ access to effective remedy through the courts. More information on the research can be found here.
European Civil Justice project
This project – now closed – aimed to improve access to civil justice in the EU for victims of human rights abuses related to activities of European multinational companies in developing countries. In order to stimulate discussion on civil justice, CORE and its partners disseminated the findings of the Third Pillar report through four high-profile conferences, in Paris, London, Berlin and Brussels. The report EU’s Business: Recommended actions for the EU and its Member States to ensure access to judicial remedy for business-related human rights impacts summarizes the outcomes of these conferences.
Project site: http://www.accessjustice.eu/en
CORE’s project partners include:
National Contact Point Reform
In the report Obstacle Course: How the UK’s NCP handles human rights complaints under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Amnesty International examines how complaints have been dealt with by the UK National Contact Point across three stages – initial assessment, mediation and determination. It assesses the extent to which the NCP complies with the OECD Guidelines’ implementation procedures and the extent to which the NCP’s statements and decisions are aligned with the Human Rights chapter of the Guidelines. Recommendations are made for improving the effectiveness of the UK NCP with regard to these findings.
Access to Justice