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CALS contributes to Amnesty International publication

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS Deputy Director Lisa Chamberlain adds to publication on accessing remedies for corporate human rights abuses

Amnesty International and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre have today published Creating a paradigm shift: Legal solutions to improve access to remedy for corporate human rights abuse. This briefing puts forward concrete legal proposals to tackle persistent hurdles to remedy in cases of corporate human rights abuse. The publication includes a paper by CALS Deputy Director Lisa Chamberlain entitled 'Meaningful Access to Information in Business and Human Rights Cases'. 

The publication addresses:

  • the difficulties of holding parent companies legally accountable for abuses caused by their subsidiaries as a result of the “corporate veil”;
  • the risk for foreign claimants that their claims in countries where multinational companies are based, such as Canada and the USA, are rejected on forum non conveniens grounds, and;
  • the lack of access to human rights-relevant information, including evidence of detrimental impacts of corporate activities, which undermines the ability of affected individuals and communities to build a robust legal claim against alleged perpetrators.

This briefing seeks to move forward the agenda for legal reform. It is aimed at legal experts, legislators, national, regional and international policy-makers as well as civil society actors working in the field of business and human rights and seeks to both inform their work and/or prompt action to improve legal accountability and access to remedy for corporate human rights abuse.

The proposals in the briefing build from recommendations made in Amnesty International’s 2014 book Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy (Injustice Incorporated), as well as further research, analysis and expert input. The briefing is accompanied by five additional expert papers by Surya Deva, François Larocque, Lisa Chamberlain, Channa Samkalden, Elodie Aba and Sif Thorgeirsson, which discuss the obstacles and solutions underlined in Injustice Incorporated

While the problems highlighted above persist, positive legislative developments in the last two years give cause for optimism: the French “Duty of Vigilance” law passed early this year imposing due diligence duties on certain large French companies to prevent environmental and human rights harm by their subsidiaries and other business relationships is remarkable, and a first of its kind; the 2015 EU Directive on Non-financial Reporting and 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act requiring disclosure of due diligence procedures to respect human rights, or to avoid slavery and trafficking, respectively, expand on the scope of what companies are currently required to report regarding human rights.

These significant legal developments, and ongoing legislative efforts in other countries such as Switzerland, Netherlands and Germany, point to the beginning of a paradigm shift in corporate accountability. Those driving legal reform must keep this momentum going and capitalise on the various legislative developments to initiate new or strengthen existing legal proposals. Amnesty International and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre hope this publication will help fuel those efforts and move the agenda for rights-focused legal reform forward.