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11 Sep 2019

Carlos Lopez, International Commission of Jurists

Legal liability for business human rights abuses under the revised draft of a treaty on business and human rights

The revised draft of an international treaty on the issue of business and human rights, released on 16 July 2019, represents a huge step forward in relation to the so-called “zero draft” published in 2018. Both this revised version and its predecessor “zero draft” were prepared by the chairperson of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG), a UN organ mandated by the UN Human Rights Council resolution 26/9 to elaborate such a legally binding instrument on business and human rights.

The revised draft makes crucial choices that may constitute a turning point in the process. One significant change is the definition of the scope of the proposed treaty, which has been expanded to encompass all business enterprises, while still having a heightened focus on businesses with transnational activities.  Also of particular importance are new or revised provisions on prevention and due diligence that are in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) and a comprehensive article on legal liability of business enterprises that reflects the progress that has emerged in international law and national practice. The revised draft also brings some novelties in the new articles on implementation (art 15) and settlement of disputes (art 16). The present blog will focus on the provisions concerning legal liability and, in particular, those referring to legal liability for crimes under international law.