Putting people and the planet at the core of business

Access to justice

Securing justice for victims of corporate abuse

What’s the problem?

Corporate malpractice can have devastating consequences. For example, Shell’s failure to address ongoing oil spills from its pipelines in Nigeria has ruined the lives of an estimated 11,000 people who rely on agriculture or fishing to make a living.

In 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh killed 1,100 workers and injured 2,500 others. Many were young women making clothes for British brands including Bonmarché, Monsoon Accessorise, Matalan and Primark.

When incidents like these happen, it’s vital that affected people and their families can access justice in the UK, to seek redress from the UK company responsible.

But victims often face numerous hurdles to access justice in the UK. Bringing cases to court is a difficult, lengthy and costly process, while other complaint mechanisms do not offer remedy.

In this video Richard Meeran of Leigh Day discusses some of the issues surrounding wrongdoing by UK corporations overseas and barriers to justice for those affected.

What’s CORE doing about it?

CORE wants to make it easier for corporate abuse victims to access courts and complaint mechanisms in the UK. Redress can range from an apology and guarantees that the abuse will not happen again, through to financial compensation and actions to remedy the situation.

Judicial remedy

When a UK-linked business is accused of violating human rights or damaging the environment overseas, victims should be able to bring cases to court in the UK.

We want to change the legal process so that UK companies must prove that they were not responsible for abuses abroad. At present, the onus is on victims to show that the UK company was in control of its subsidiaries’ operations, despite all the evidence being in the hands of the firm.

We also want to clarify that UK companies can be responsible for harms in their supply chains, when they have close links with the supplier. This is virtually impossible at present.

Non-judicial remedy

So-called non-judicial redress mechanisms offer an alternative to a court case.

We want to ensure the UK National Contact Point (which handles complaints against UK companies for breaching the OECD Guidelines on multinational enterprises) fulfils its role as a means for victims of corporate abuses to access remedy.

In the last few years, numerous problems have been identified in the way the NCP handles human rights cases and the outcomes for victims have been unsatisfactory.

CORE and the University of Essex were UK partners in a five-year research project looking at the distinctive role of non-judicial redress systems, including in the UK.

Key reading

  • Our short briefing (2017) on the barriers to justice for victims of corporate abuses by the global subsidiaries of UK-headquartered companies.
  • Amnesty International’s report, Obstacle Course (2017) recommends changes to the UK’s NCP to improve the effectiveness of the UK NCP.
  • Our guide (2016) with London Mining Network and Leigh Day, aims to help communities, workers, and civil society organisations to understand the process of using legal action in England to hold UK companies to account.

  • A survey by Robert McCorquodale (2015) of current State-based judicial and non-judicial mechanisms in the UK to enable access to a remedy for victims of human rights abuses by business enterprises.
  • Our report with Sherpa, the ECCJ, Frank Bold and ECCHR, The EU’s Business (2014) recommends actions for the EU and its Member States to ensure access to judicial remedy for business-related human rights impacts.
  • The Third Pillar (2013) – our report with ICAR and ECCJ identifies the most feasible solutions to improve access to judicial remedy in the US, the UK, and certain EU countries.

 

Read our blogs on access to justice and significant cases we’ve supported in the UK courts, brought by victims of human rights abuses in Zambia, Nigeria and Kenya.

Find out about our other priority areas: transparency and accountability