Access to justice
Corporate malpractice has major implications for individuals and communities. In April 2013, the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh led to the deaths of more than 1100 workers, many of them young women employed to make clothes for European retailers. It subsequently emerged that the factory had failed safety inspections. Environmental contamination can be devastating for people who rely on agriculture or fishing to make a living. Oil spills from Shell pipelines in Nigeria are estimated to have affected the lives of 11,000 people. Extremely low wages can keep people in poverty or force them into working excessive overtime.
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.
Access to Judicial Remedy project
This joint project with the ICAR (International Corporate Accountability Roundtable) and ECCJ (European Coalition for Corporate Justice) seeks to build on existing work that exposes common barriers to judicial remedy in home states of corporations for victims of human rights abuses. The project will then identify 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 is due to be launched in December 2013. For full details see the attached document.
Evaluating Redress Mechanisms project
Together with the University of Essex, CORE is a UK partner in a three-year research project coordinated by academics at the University of Melbourne, addressing the urgent need to provide vulnerable workers and communities with more effective means of defending their human rights when these are violated by businesses based in countries elsewhere in the world. The research will focus on three contrasting sectors where there is clear evidence of human rights violations by transnational businesses: mining, garments/ footwear and agribusiness. The experiences of communities with a grievance against a multinational will be compared across two ‘host countries’—Indonesia and India—and two ‘home countries’ whose businesses invest or operate in these sectors: Australia and the UK. The project is due to report in September 2014.