This report compiles all relevant news,
events and materials on Doing Business Right based on the daily coverage
provided on our twitter feed @DoinBizRight and on various websites. You are
invited to complete this compilation via the comments section below. Feel free
to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have
Shell-Eni Bribery Case: On 5 March, the corporate bribery trial against oil companies Shell
and Eni was postponed to 14 May by a court in Milan, Italy. The charges against the companies are bribery
and corruption in the 2011 purchase of a Nigerian offshore oilfield, one of the
most valuable oilfields in Africa. Although both firms denied
the charges, the corruption watchdog Global Witness claimed
that hundreds of millions of dollars had been paid to Nigeria’s former
president and his former oil minister as pocket bribes. Global Witness calls
the case one of the biggest corruption scandals in the history of the oil
sector. The trial in the Milan court is expected to last 12-18 months.
Jesner v. Arab Bank: On 24 April, in a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court ruled in
v. Arab Bank case that foreign corporations cannot be brought before US
courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). Between 2004 and 2010, thousands of
foreign nationals sued Arab Bank under the ATS, claiming that the Bank’s
officials allowed money transfers through the New York branch of the Bank to
Hamas who committed violent acts in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Supreme Court held that foreign corporations cannot be sued under the ATS.
Furthermore, the Court claimed that international law today does not recognize
“a specific, universal, and obligatory norm of corporate [tort] liability”,
which is a prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit under the ATS. In the Court’s
lead opinion, Justice Kennedy stated that "Courts are not well suited to
make the required policy judgments that are implicated by corporate liability
in cases like this one.” In her dissenting opinion joined by three other
justices, Justice Sotomayor claimed that the decision "absolves
corporations from responsibility under the ATS for conscience-shocking
Fifth Anniversary of Rana Plaza:
April 24th also marked the fifth anniversary of the deadly collapse of Rana
Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Rana Plaza was a five-story commercial building
which housed several garment factories employing around 5000 people. The global
outcry after the disaster which claimed at least 1134 lives led to numerous
initiatives to change business-as-usual in the garment and textile supply
chains in Bangladesh and beyond. Despite these initiatives which employed
various approaches to the issue of worker safety in the supply chains, it is widely
that there is still a long way to go to create a safe working environment for
workers in the garment and textile supply chains. On 12 April, the Asser
Institute hosted a one-day conference on Rana Plaza to take stock of the
regulatory and policy initiatives aimed at improving workers’ safety in the
garment supply chain (You will find our background paper here).
Okpabi v. Royal Dutch Shell - Episode. 3?
On 27 April, more than 40 UK and international human rights, development and
environment NGOs, later supported by
academics from different states, urged the UK Supreme Court to allow two
Nigerian fishing communities to appeal against the Okpabi v Royal Dutch Shell
ruling of the Court of Appeal in February which denied responsibility for
UK-based Royal Dutch Shell for the pipeline spills, dating back as far as 1989,
which affected approximately 40000 Nigerian farmers and fishermen. The NGOs claimed
that the Court of Appeal’s decision erred in many ways as it seriously restricts
parent company liability and limits the options available to victims of
corporate human rights violations seeking remedy in the UK.More...
The headline of the New York Times on 24 April summed it up: ‘Supreme Court Bars Human Rights Suits Against Foreign Corporations’. The Jesner decision,
released earlier that day by the U.S. Supreme Court, triggered a tremor
of indignation in the human rights movement given the immunity it
conferred to foreign corporations violating human rights against suits
under the Alien Tort Statute, and led to a flood of legal and academic
commentaries online. This panel discussion, organised with the support
of the Netherlands Network of Human Rights Research, will
address various aspects of the judgment. Its aim is to better
understand the road travelled by American courts leading up to the
decision with regard to the application of the Alien Tort Statute to
corporations, to compare the decision with the position taken in other
jurisdictions, and to discuss the ruling's potential broader impact on
the direction taken by the business and human rights movement.
Where: T.M.C. Asser Instituut in The Hague
When: Thursday 24 May at 2:30 pm
- Phillip Paiement (Tilburg University) - The Jesner case and the ATS: An American perspective
- Lucas Roorda (Utrecht University) - A comparative perspective on Jesner and corporate liability for human rights violations
- Nadia Bernaz (Wageningen University) - Lessons for the business and human rights movement after Jesner
Editor’s note: Abdurrahman is currently working for Doing Business
Right project at the Asser Institute as an intern. He received his LL.M.
International and European Law from Tilburg University and currently he is
a Research Master student at the same university.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza attracted public
attention from various parts of the world. As a result, the demand to ensure
that businesses do not contribute to or commit human rights violations,
particularly multinational enterprises (MNEs) which can easily engage in forum
shopping between states with lax regulations, started to make itself heard.
This increased public interest drove national governments to start addressing
this issue in an attempt to prevent MNEs from getting involved in human rights
abuses along their supply chains. In
this respect, to deal with the human rights abuses committed by MNEs in the
ready-made garment (RMG) sector and beyond, numerous transnational and national
initiatives have emerged in different forms since the Rana Plaza disaster.
These initiatives include agreements (e.g. the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety) with binding
commitments, traditional voluntary CSR-based multi-stakeholder initiatives (e.g. the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety), domestic legal (e.g. the UK Modern Slavery Act and the French law on the duty of vigilance), administrative measures (e.g. the reform of the Department of Inspections for
Factories and Establishments in Bangladesh for better factory and labour
inspections) or agreements
between governmental bodies, businesses and some other stakeholders (e.g. the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile).
These concerted efforts, to ensure responsible
business conduct show an extreme variety in terms of their scope, approaches
and parties involved. In particular, the
French law on the duty of vigilance and the Dutch agreement on sustainable
garment will be the focus on this blog since while the adoption of the former
was accelerated by the disaster, the latter was an indirect response to it. It
is crucial to scrutinise the implementation of these initiatives and whether or
not they positively transform the business-as-usual in the RMG sector. In this
blog, after brief explanations of the French and Dutch initiatives, some of the
concerns and problems, which may be encountered in their implementation
process, will be presented. More...