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1 Jan 2010

International Commission of Jurists

Access to Justice : human rights abuses involving corporations in Netherlands

Access to justice and effective legal remedies are crucial elements in the protection of human rights in the context of business activities…The Dutch legal order allows for victims of corporate human rights abuses to seek remedy through civil or criminal proceedings. The potential for successful litigation in the criminal justice system remains limited. Civil liability is more promising, in part because civil liability may be founded on the breach of international law standards of corporate conduct. In either case, complex corporate structures present a formidable barrier to successful litigation. Jurisdiction barriers are also present, as Dutch courts are generally reserved in claiming authority over foreign subsidiaries of Dutch parent companies. Notable exceptions do exist however. Procedural barriers also confront claimants of human rights abuses, particularly relating to evidence, compensation and costs. Despite these obstacles, there is much room for reform of the Dutch justice system to provide claimants of corporate human rights abuse with timely, accessible and effective adjudication.