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Kenyan tea workers file UN complaint against Unilever over 2007 ethnic violence; Unilever rejects the allegations

"Kenyan tea workers file UN complaint against Unilever over 2007 ethnic violence", 1 August 2020

A group of 218 Kenyan tea plantation workers have filed a complaint with the UN against Unilever, alleging that the multinational violated international human rights standards by not adequately assisting its employees, who were attacked when ethnic violence broke out following a disputed election in 2007.

The workers say that Unilever... breached its obligation to remediate any human rights abuses to which it has contributed, which is central to the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights, and which the company has endorsed. They request the UN’s working group on business and human rights to make a declaration to this effect, and to call on the company to provide redress.

Unilever “strongly reject[ed] any allegation” that it violated the principles in the case of the tea workers, a spokesperson said, and “provided significant support to those employees impacted”.

The workers lived on a plantation in Kericho, in western Kenya, operated by a Unilever subsidiary and at that time hosting more than 10% of the company’s global workforce. Most were from the Kisii tribe, which is not indigenous to the area. After the 2007 presidential election, violence broke out across Kenya, leading to more than 1,300 deaths nationwide.

In Kericho attackers invaded the plantation and assaulted hundreds of workers and their families. Seven people died, and others were raped and seriously injured, according to the complaint.

“This was the most serious known case of human rights abuse suffered by the largest concentration of Unilever workers anywhere in the world,” it said...