Corporate (Ir)Responsibility Made in Germany - Part II: The Unfinished Saga of the Lieferkettengesetz - By Mercedes Hering

Editor's note: Mercedes is a recent graduate of the LL.B. dual-degree programme English and German Law, which is taught jointly by University College London (UCL) and the University of Cologne. She will sit the German state exam in early 2022. Alongside her studies, she is working as student research assistant at the Institute for International and Foreign Private Law in Cologne. Since September 2020, she joined the Asser Institute as a research intern for the Doing Business Right project.

In Part II of this blog series, I intend to outline the different proposals for a Lieferkettengesetz. First, the Initiative Lieferkettengesetz’s model law, secondly the proposal submitted by the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and lastly, I will present the amendments pushed by the business sector and the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.More...

New Event! Kiobel in The Hague - Holding Shell Accountable in the Dutch courts - 16 October 2020 - 4-5 Pm (CET)

On Friday, 16 October, from 16.00-17.00, we will organise an online discussion about the Kiobel v. Shell case, currently before Dutch courts in the Hague. The discussion will retrace the trajectory followed by the case in reaching The Hague, explain the arguments raised by both parties in the proceedings, and assess the potential relevance of the future ruling for the wider debate on corporate accountability/liability for human rights violations. 


Background

In 1995, nine local activists from the Ogoniland region of Nigeria (the Ogoni nine) were executed by the Nigerian authorities, then under the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. They were protesting against the widespread pollution stemming from the exploitation of local oil resources by a Nigerian subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell when they were arrested and found guilty of murder in a sham trial. Their deaths led first to a series of complaints against Royal Dutch Shell in the United States on the basis of the alien tort statute (ATS). One of them, lodged by Esther Kiobel, the wife of one of those killed (Dr Barinem Kiobel), reached the US Supreme Court. Famously, the Court decided to curtail the application of the ATS in situations that do not sufficiently 'touch and concern' the territory of the United States.

This ruling put an end to Esther Kiobel's US lawsuit, but it did not stop her, together with three other widows (Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula), from seeking to hold the multinational company accountable for its alleged involvement in the deaths of their husbands. Instead, in 2017, they decided to continue their quest for justice on Royal Dutch Shell’s home turf, before Dutch courts in The Hague. 25 years after the death of the Ogoni nine, the court in The Hague just finished hearing the pleas of the parties and will render its much-awaited decision in the coming months.


Confirmed speakers

  • Tom de Boer (Human rights lawyer representing the claimants, Prakken d'Oliveira)  
  • Lucas Roorda (Utrecht University)
  • Tara van Ho (Essex University) 
  • Antoine Duval, Senior researcher at the T.M.C Asser Instituut, will moderate the discussion 


 Register here to join the discussion on Friday.

Corporate (Ir)responsibility made in Germany - Part I: The National (In)Action Plan 2016-2020 - By Mercedes Hering

Editor's note: Mercedes is a recent graduate of the LL.B. dual-degree programme English and German Law, which is taught jointly by University College London (UCL) and the University of Cologne. She will sit the German state exam in early 2022. Alongside her studies, she is working as student research assistant at the Institute for International and Foreign Private Law in Cologne. Since September 2020, she joined the Asser Institute as a research intern for the Doing Business Right project.


On the international stage, Germany presents itself as a champion for human rights and the environment. However, as this blog will show, when it comes to holding its own corporations accountable for human rights violations and environmental damage occurring within their global supply chains, it shows quite a different face.

In recent years, German companies were linked to various human rights scandals. The German public debate on corporate accountability kickstarted in earnest in September 2012, when a factory in Karachi, Pakistan, burned down killing almost 300 people. The factory had supplied KiK, Germany’s largest discount textile retailer with cheap garments. Then, over a year and a half ago, a dam broke in Brazil, killing 257 people. The dam had previously been certified to be safe by TÜV Süd Brazil, a subsidiary of TÜV Süd, a German company offering auditing and certification services. There are many more examples of incidents in which German companies were involved in human rights violations occurring within their supply chains, yet eight years after the factory in Pakistan burned down, and nine years after the unanimous endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by the UN Human Rights Council, there is still no binding German legislation imposing some type of liability onto companies that knowingly, or at least negligently, fail to uphold human and labor rights in their supply chain.

This is despite the fact that Germany, the third-largest importer worldwide, with its economic power and negotiation strength on the international stage, could have a dramatic impact on business practices if it were to embrace a stronger approach to business and human rights.  

In the coming two blogs I am to take a critical look at Germany’s recent policies related to corporate accountability and discuss the current developments (and roadblocks) linked to the potential adoption of a Lieferkettengesetz (Supply Chain Law). In this first post, I focus on the effects of the National Action Plan 2016-2020, building on recently released interim reports. In my second blog, I will then turn to the various proposals and political discussions for mandatory due diligence regulation (Lieferkettengesetz).More...


International Criminal Law and Corporate Actors - Part 2: The Rome Statute and its Aftermath - By Maisie Biggs

Editor’s note: Maisie Biggs graduated with a MSc in Global Crime, Justice and Security from the University of Edinburgh and holds a LLB from University College London. She is currently working with the Asser Institute in The Hague.  She has worked for International Justice Mission in South Asia and the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) in Amsterdam.

 

The Rome Statute is a central pillar of international criminal law (ICL), and so any discussion concerning the subjection of legal persons requires a revisit of the negotiations surrounding its drafting. However in the time since its implementation, there appears to have been a shift in ICL regarding corporate liability. Developing customary international law, treaty law and now most domestic legal systems have some established mechanisms for prosecuting legal persons for violations of ICL. More...

New Event! Towards Criminal Liability of Corporations for Human Rights Violations: The Lundin Case in Sweden - 23 May - Asser Institute

This autumn, two oil industry executives may be indicted in Sweden for aiding and abetting international crimes in Sudan. Furthermore, the public prosecutor will also likely seek forfeiture of $400 million from their company, Lundin Petroleum, reflecting the benefits derived from its Sudanese operations. The case follows the 2018 French indictment of LafargeHolcim for alleged crimes committed in Syria, showing that corporate liability for international crimes is gaining traction, before European courts at least.

This event aims to discuss the Lundin case, which has the potential of becoming a landmark trial because of the novelty and complexity of the legal issues that the court will have to decide. In particular, with regard to the assessment of the individual criminal liability of the executives of Lundin, the determination of the applicable standards of proof, the question whether a lack of due diligence is sufficient for a finding of guilt, and the limits and overlap of individual criminal liability of corporate directors on the one hand and corporate criminal liability of organisations on the other.

The event will feature three speakers, who will be presenting the various dimensions of the case and will put it into the more general context of the current legal developments with regard to criminal liability of corporations (and their executives) for human rights violations:

  • Egbert Wesselink will provide an introduction to Sudan’s oil war, describe Lundin’s role in it, and examine the human rights responsibilities of the company and its shareholders.
  • Dr. Mark Taylor will discuss how the Lundin case sits in global developments regarding the criminal liability of corporations for human rights abuses in the context of conflicts.
  • Miriam Ingeson will give a Swedish perspective to the legal framework of the case and analyse the legal issues that it raises at the intersection between national and international law.

The speakers:

  • Egbert Wesselink serves as Senior Advisor in PAX, the Dutch peace movement, where he is responsible for the programme on Natural Resources, Conflict and Human Rights, that focusses on the impact of international enterprises on the rights and interests of communities, notably in Sudan, South Sudan, DRC and Colombia. He represents PAX in several multi-stakeholder initiatives, including the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in an effort to increase the impact of emerging international guidelines, and advises various enterprises.
  • Dr. Mark Taylor is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Private Law, University of Oslo and presently a Visiting Fellow at the Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam. Mark writes on legal and policy frameworks applicable to responsible business and will publish the book “War Economies and International Law: Regulating the Economic Activity of Armed Conflict” (based on his PhD thesis) with Cambridge University Press. Mark is an advisor to various initiatives in the field of responsible business and is a member of the Norwegian Ethics Information Commission (2018-2019), a government commission which is considering a proposed law on human rights information in the global value chains of Norwegian business.
  • Miriam Ingeson is a PhD candidate at Uppsala University, Sweden.  Her research project explores corporate criminal liability in international criminal law, and the intersection of domestic criminal law and public international law. She has previously held positions with the Swedish Prosecution Authority, the Folke Bernadotte Academy and the Swedish Ministry of Justice.

The moderator:

  • Dr. Antoine Duval is Senior Researcher at the Asser Institute and the coordinator of the Doing Business Right project.

For some background material on the case and its wider context, see www.unpaiddebt.orgwww.lundinhistoryinsudan.com.

More information and registration Here!

The Lafarge Affair: A First Step Towards Corporate Criminal Liability for Complicity in Crimes against Humanity - By Alexandru Tofan

Editor's note: Before joining the Asser Institute as an intern, Alexandru Tofan pursued an LLM in Transnational Law at King’s College London where he focused on international human rights law, transnational litigation and international law. He also worked simultaneously as a research assistant at the Transnational Law Institute in London on several projects pertaining to human rights, labour law and transnational corporate conduct.


The recent indictment of the French multinational company ‘Lafarge’ for complicity in crimes against humanity marks a historic step in the fight against the impunity of corporations.  It represents the first time that a company has been indicted on this ground and, importantly, the first time that a French parent company has been charged for the acts undertaken by one of its subsidiaries abroad.  Notably, the Lafarge case fuels an important debate on corporate criminal liability for human rights violations and may be a game changer in this respect.  This article analyses this case and seeks to provide a comprehensive account of its background and current procedural stage. More...