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11 Nov 2021

International Rights Advocates

USA: Procedural developments in ongoing Washington DC lawsuit against seven major cocoa companies for use of child labor

"IRAdvocates Files Opposition Brief to Cocoa Companies Motion to Dismiss", 29 Sept 2021

[In February 2021] IRAdvocates filed a new lawsuit against Nestlé, Cargill, Mars, Hershey, Olam, Barry Callebaut, and Mondelez on behalf of eight formerly enslaved children who were trafficked from Mali and brought to Côte D’Ivoire where they were forced to perform hazardous work harvesting cocoa for one or more of these giant multinationals.

The case was filed using a relatively new law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”)…The companies filed a truly shocking Motion to Dismiss. Twenty years after they acted collectively and signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001 and promised to end their admitted use of the 'worst forms of child labor,' the companies argue to a U.S. federal judge that they are mere purchasers of cocoa, they don’t have sufficient knowledge of forced child labor to be liable, they have no control over the cocoa farmers in Cote D’Ivoire, because they are so far removed from cocoa harvesting operations, holding them liable for using cocoa harvested by enslaved children would be akin to holding consumers of chocolate liable, and, by the way, they “strongly condemn the use of forced labor.”

We just filed our Opposition brief…We demonstrate in great detail that these companies have been working together since 2001, when they signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol and promised to end their reliance on the 'worst forms of child labor' by 2005. Instead of ending their use of enslaved children, taking a cue from Big Tobacco, the companies have engaged in a massive and misleading scheme to continue profiting from enslaved children while they lie to the public and regulators about their progress…