Kiobel in The Hague – Holding Shell Accountable in Dutch Courts - Event Report - 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 25 September 2020, the final hearings in the Kiobel case took place before the Dutch District Court in The Hague. This case dates back to 25 years ago; and the claimants embarked on a judicial journey that led them from the US to the Netherlands. On 16 October 2020, the TMC Asser Institute hosted an online roundtable discussion to present and discuss the arguments raised before the Dutch court. The three panelists, Tara Van Ho from Essex University, Tom de Boer from Prakken d’Oliveira, and Lucas Roorda from Utrecht University each provided their stance on the case and analyzed the past, the present and the main issues of the proceedings.

Depending on the outcome of the case, Kiobel could pave the way for further business human rights litigation in Europe. It raises questions ranging from jurisdiction, applicable law, parent company liability and fee arrangements to state sovereignty and the responsibility of former colonial states vis à vis countries that emerged from colonial rule. Below you will find the highlights of our discussion, you can also watch the full video on the Asser Institute’s YouTube channel.More...

Doing Business Right – Monthly Report – March 2019 - By Shamistha Selvaratnam

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 at 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.

The Headlines

US Supreme Court decision: World Bank can be sued for projects that impact on local communities

In late February, the US Supreme Court handed down its judgment in Jam et al. v. International Finance Corporation, ruling that the World Bank does not enjoy absolute immunity from being sued in the United States, including in relation to its commercial activities. In this case, members of a minority fishing community in India sued the International Finance Corporate (IFC) (an arm of the World Bank) in order to hold it accountable for various harms caused by the Tata Mundra power plan, an IFC-financed project. The federal district court found that the IFC enjoys ‘virtually absolute’ immunity from suits. The US Court of Appeals upheld this decision. However, the US Supreme Court overturned this decision finding that international organisations can now be sued in the United States. Read the judgment here. The Asser Institute will be holding an event on 24 April 2019 which will summarise the reasoning in the decision and explore the foreseeable effects on the legal accountability of international organisations, and international financial institutions in particular. Register for the event here.

Australian Government releases draft guidance in relation to modern slavery

The Australian Government has published its draft guidance for reporting entities under the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth), which was passed by Parliament in December 2018. The draft sets out what entities need to do to comply with the reporting requirement under the Act. Usefully, the draft informs entities on how to determine whether it is a reporting entity and how to prepare a modern slavery statement. It offers suggestions on how to meet the seven reporting criteria, including how to scope out an entity’s modern slavery risks and possible actions that can be taken to assess and address risks identified. Read the draft here. More...

New Event! Human Rights and the Immunity of International Financial Institutions - Reflections on Jam v. IFC - 24 April - Asser Institute

On 27 February 2019, in a 7-1 decision, the US Supreme Court made an end to the absolute immunity from suit that international organisations (IOs) had consistently enjoyed in US courts. The decision realigns the immunity regime for IOs with that for foreign states, which leaves the opportunity to sue organisations such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) when they engage in commercial activities. In a flare of enthusiasm among academics and (human rights) activists, the decision was immediately granted a landmark​ status and marked as a turning point in the long history of impunity for social, ecological and human harm caused by the activities of IOs. This Doing Business Right Talk ​will summarise the reasoning in the decision and explore the foreseeable effects on the legal accountability of IOs, and international financial institutions in particular. The most immediate effect, in that sense, might not be located on the avenue of adjudication, but in the various accountability mechanisms that have been created within IOs themselves.

Dimitri van den Meerssche is a researcher in the Dispute Settlement and Adjudication strand at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut. His research reflects on the law of international organisations, international legal practices and technologies of global governance. This work is inspired by insights from science and technology studies, performativity theory and actor-network theory. Dimitri is currently finalising his doctoral dissertation at the European University Institute, which he expects to defend in winter 2019. His dissertation is entitled “The World Bank’s Lawyers – An Inquiry into the Life of Law as Institutional Practice”. In the context of this dissertation, Dimitri has worked for three months at the World Bank Legal Vice-Presidency and spent one semester as visiting doctoral researcher at the London School of Economics.

When: Wednesday 24 April 2019 at 16:00

Where: Asser Institute in The Hague

Register Here

New Event! The Jesner ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court: The ‘end of the beginning’ for corporate liability under the Alien Tort Statute - 24 May at the Asser Institute in The Hague

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

Register here!