Editor’s note: Shamistha Selvaratnam is a LLM Candidate of the
Advanced Masters of European and International Human Rights Law at
Leiden University in the Netherlands and a contributor to the Doing
Business Right project of the Asser Institute. Prior to commencing the
LLM, she worked as a business and human rights solicitor in Australia
where she specialised in promoting business respect for human rights
through engagement with policy, law and practice.
This report compiles all relevant news,
events and materials on Doing Business Right based on the coverage provided on
our twitter feed @DoinBizRight and on various websites. You are invited to
contribute to this compilation via the comments section below, feel free to add
links to important cases, documents and articles we may have overlooked.
court rejects KiK lawsuit
On 10 January 2019, a regional court in
Dortmund, Germany rejected a lawsuit brought by four affected Pakistanis that
related to the death of 262 people and injury of 32 people at a Pakistani
textile factory in 2012. The factory was a key supplier to German clothing
company, KiK. The case was rejected on the basis that the statute of
limitations had expired, despite computer simulation evidence demonstrating
that inadequate safety measures were in place at the factory at the time,
including no stairs and emergency exits, as well as a lack of fire
extinguishers and fire alarms. It was argued that KiK ‘knew or should have
known about the structural details if, as they claim, their representatives
visited the factory several times’. Read more here
Supreme Court hears Nevsun appeal
On 23 January 2019, the Canadian Supreme
Court heard evidence involving a lawsuit involving Nevsun Resources, a Canadian
mining company, which is accused of being complicit in using forced labour by
one if its sub-contractors at the Bisha mine in Eritrea. The case was initially
brought in 2014 by four Eritrean miners.
In 2016, the British Colombian Supreme
Court rejected Nevsun’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was upheld by the
British Colombian Court of Appeal in 2017. In 2018, the Canadian Supreme Court
allowed Nevsun to appeal the decision of the British Colombian Court of Appeal
with the trial being heard earlier this year. The Canadian Supreme Court will
need to decide, inter alia, whether it has jurisdiction to hear cases involving
alleged breaches of customary international law by a Canadian business
involving its actions in a foreign country. Read more here.
introduces bill regulating forced labour and child labour within businesses
On 13 December 2018 a private members bill
was introduced in Canada titled ‘C-423
– An Act respecting the fight
against certain forms of modern slavery through the imposition of certain
measures and amending the Customs Tariff’ (the Bill) to
regulate forced labour and child labour in businesses. The Bill requires
to provide the Minister with an annual modern slavery report that sets out the
steps it has taken to ‘prevent and reduce the risk that forced labour or child
labour is used at any step of the manufacture, production, growing, extraction
or processing of goods in Canada or elsewhere by the entity or of goods
imported into Canada by the entity.’ Other criteria that must be included in
the report includes the entity’s policies in relation to forced labour and
child labour and the training provided to employees on these areas. The Bill
carries penalties for non-compliance; namely, the relevant entity may be liable
of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine of up to $250,000.
releases report with recommendations to improve transparency in supply chains
provision of Modern Slavery Act
The Independent Review of the UK Modern
Slavery Act recently released
an interim report. The report notes that the UK Government’s current approach
to eradicating modern slavery in supply chains through the transparency in
supply chains provision ‘while a step forward, is not sufficient’. Among other
things, the report recommends that the UK Government should take the following
action to improve its approach to addressing modern slavery in supply chains:
- Establish an internal list of companies
in scope of the transparency in supply chains provision and check with
companies whether they are covered by the legislation.
- Amend the option reporting criteria
against which businesses may report, so that they are mandatory criteria
against which businesses must report.
- Set up a central government-run
repository to which companies are required to upload their statements and that
is easily accessible to the public, free of charge.
- Empower the Independent
Anti-Slavery Commissioner to monitor compliance and report annually.
- Strengthen the Modern Slavery
Act’s approach to tackling non-compliance with the reporting requirement,
adopting a gradual approach. For example, initial warnings, fines (as a
percentage of turnover), court summons and directors’ disqualification.
- Introduce sanctions gradually
over the next few years so as to give businesses time to adapt to changes in
the legislative requirements.
- Set up or assign an enforcement
body to impose sanctions on non-compliant companies.