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11 Jun 2021

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

ECCHR comments on adoption of German due diligence law

...The law came about primarily due to pressure from civil society, but was massively weakened by business associations in negotiations and thus falls short of international human rights standards.

Please find a statement by Miriam Saage-Maaß, director of ECCHR’s Business and Human Rights program, below:

“For decades, German companies have profited at the expense of people and the environment. That a due diligence law was finally passed today is an important and long overdue step. Voluntary social standards have failed... With the due diligence law, the German government is finally making human rights and environmental protection mandatory for companies.

But the law does not do justice to those affected by human rights violations. It not only falls far short of civil society expectations – but also international human rights standards...

The due diligence law only holds larger German companies and their direct suppliers accountable for acute or imminent human rights violations. This disregards obligations under the UN Guiding Principles: every company has the responsibility to prevent the risk of human rights violations – not only to act when it is practically too late. In addition, the entire value chain must be covered, from extracting raw materials to a product’s use, such as in the case of controversial weapons deliveries to warring parties.

...The urgent question of civil compensation, which was at the heart of the KiK factory fire in Pakistan, for example, remains unresolved. This is unacceptable for those affected by human rights violations, and fails to provide legal clarity for companies.

The task now is to continue to put pressure on politicians and businesses to improve the German law and implement it effectively. At the European Union level, too, we must now fight for a much stronger and ambitious law, which addresses some of these shortcomings and aligns with international standards. This EU legislative framework must ensure civil liability for harm and strengthen access to European courts for victims of corporate human rights and environmental harms in global value chains. The EU law must also cover more companies; all internationally recognized human rights and environmental impacts; as well as the entire value chain. People from the Global South will not stop demanding their rights, and we will continue to support them in this.”

See also: Human Rights Watch - "New Supply Chain Law a Step in the Right Direction"