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14 Jan 2019

Rights and Accountability in Developments (RAID)

UK Supreme Court Hears Landmark Case on Corporate Rights Violations

Companies have repeatedly used [the presumption that corporate entities within a group are distinct]…to avoid responsibility for the harm their business operations cause.

In the case of Vedanta Resources Plc and Another v Lungowe and others, the company denies that it exercised control over its Zambian subsidiary, KCM, or that it owes any duty of care to the Zambian victims whose livelihoods and health have been so badly affected by its mining operations.

The Zambian claimants argue that Vedanta, the parent company, did exercise control over KCM, and that in doing so owed them a duty of care.

The legal question of whether the parent company can be held accountable under civil law for human rights violations and environmental harm caused by its subsidiary is what the Supreme Court judges need to decide…

The UK, a signatory to key international human rights treaties, has a responsibility to advance access to justice for victims [which] frequently face significant obstacles to seeking justice in their home countries...

The UK Supreme Court decision in the Vedanta case will test whether Britain will keep up with, or even be at the forefront, of this trend, or whether it will prevent overseas human rights victims of British companies from seeking justice in the UK courts.

Part of the following timelines

UK Supreme Court to hear case on parent company's responsibility for its subsidiary polluting local water sources in Zambia

Vedanta Resources lawsuit (re water contamination, Zambia)