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14 Jan 2019

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) & Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition

UK multinationals must respect human rights globally, UK Supreme Court is told

…The Court will consider evidence from human rights NGO the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and corporate accountability group CORE, that under existing law and international standards, Vedanta owes a legal duty of care to the Zambian villagers. Acceptance of this principle would make the merits of the case arguable before UK Courts and allow for their jurisdiction to hear the case in future proceedings…

The CORE and the ICJ submission to the Court argues that the Court of Appeal’s conclusion is supported by international standards on companies’ human rights and environmental responsibilities; UK government publications aimed at implementing those standards, including its Business & Human Rights Action Plan; and comparative law jurisprudence.

Vedanta has stated that its "sustainable development agenda" has been developed in line with the international standards to which the submission refers. These standards are therefore relevant to the factual question of whether Vedanta controlled and/or had assumed responsibility for the activities of its Zambian subsidiary, Konkola.

The case is a pivotal test for the development in the UK, and across common law and possibly other jurisdictions of parent company liability for human rights and environmental harm. Victims of corporate human rights abuses face multiple barriers in holding companies to account and securing access to justice. A clear statement from the UK Supreme Court affirming the duty of care principle would assist communities who have been harmed by corporate activities, and would provide an important affirmation of the scope of parent companies’ obligations.

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)