NGOs support claimants' application to appeal to UK Supreme Court against Unilever for its subsidiary’s alleged failure to protect employees from post-electoral violence in Kenya

Following the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, 200 victims brought a lawsuit in the United Kingdom against Unilever. The complaint argues that the company was allegedly responsible for its subsidiary's failure to protect its employees living and working on Unilever Tea Kenya's tea plantation. Victims, targeted because they were from a different tribe, are seeking compensation for injuries and losses they suffered including violent attacks and rape. Unilever has argued that the claims should be heard in Kenya, not in England and that the High Court should decline jurisdiction.

On 18 January 2019, four organizations (Redress, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, Independent Medico-Legal Unit-Kenya, and International Commission of Jurists-Kenya) submitted a letter to the Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs' application for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

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Article
30 January 2019

Employees of a Unilever tea plantation in Kenya turn to the UK Supreme Court in search of justice

Author: Redress

A case arising from the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya is being litigated in London, where over 200 victims who were living and working at the time on a tea plantation owned by a subsidiary of Unilever are seeking compensation from the company for the injuries and losses they suffered.

The claim arises out of allegations that Unilever failed to protect their tea workers from the ethnic violence in 2007 at Unilever Tea Kenya Ltd…[when] large groups of attackers invaded the…plantation and attacked hundreds of workers and their families with clubs and machetes…

The claim was brought by 218 claimants, including the families of 11 victims who were killed, and a large number of people who suffered serious violent attacks, including gang rape...

The case failed in the Court of Appeal and the victims have asked for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

On 18 January 2019, REDRESS along with four other NGOs (Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, SOMO or Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, Independent Medico-Legal Unit-Kenya, and International Commission of Jurists-Kenya) submitted a letter to the Supreme Court in support of that application for permission to appeal...

The claim alleges that Unilever had placed their workers in a position of serious risk because many of the workers were from tribes which were not local to the area, so were specific targets of violence from the majority tribe (which surrounded the plantation) at times of social unrest.

The claim alleges that no steps were taken to protect the workers and their families from a foreseeable risk of violence…

The claimants are represented in this action by Leigh Day.

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Item
18 January 2019

Rule 15 submission to the Supreme Court regarding AAA & Others v Unilever Plc and Unilever Tea Kenya Limited A2/2017/0721

Author: Redress, International Commission of Jurists, SOMO, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights & Independent Medico-Legal Unit

We respectfully submit that the Supreme Court should consider the UK’s obligations under international law when considering whether to grant this application for leave to appeal...

Laing J found at first instance that ‘there is cogent evidence… that the Cs [Claimants] will not get substantial justice in Kenya’ and face a real risk of ‘violence and intimidation’ in their home jurisdiction. Notwithstanding these findings, the Court of Appeal held that any trial should take place in Kenya. As submitted by the Appellants in their application for leave to appeal, these UK proceedings represent ‘the only potential avenue for legal remedy...

The dismissal of the case prior to a full hearing hinders the Appellants’ ability to obtain justice and reparation...

The Court of Appeal’s decision also has the potential to erode the right to remedy for other victims of human rights abuses...

This case offers an important opportunity for UK courts to engage on the issue of parent company liability for acts and omissions of their foreign subsidiaries, and the ability of victims to obtain redress for human rights violations suffered as a result. We submit that the Supreme Court should take the opportunity to grant permission to appeal, reach a determination on the issues in dispute, and thus enable the possibility of a full examination of the issues and evidence at trial...

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