Silencing the Critics: How big polluters try to paralyse environmental and human rights advocacy through the courts

30/09/19 - New guidance helps investors avoid risk and prevent lawsuits against defenders

Read the guidance here | En español

Case list and company responses.

Since 2015, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has tracked 1,852 killings, beatings, threats and other forms of intimidation against indigenous and community leaders, farmers, workers, unions, journalists and civil society groups focused on business-related issues. Increasingly, companies turn to the courts to bring lawsuits against such defenders with the aim of silencing or intimidating them and stopping their work.

These lawsuits are commonly referred to as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). This snapshot looks at 24 SLAPPs brought by 12 carbon majors, active fossil fuel producers that are the largest corporate contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and other mining companies, and one industry association, between 2015 and 2018 in Asia, Latin America, North America, and Africa, and how investors can use their leverage to ensure portfolio companies do not engage in such practices.

It finds that 12 carbon majors brought at least 24 lawsuits against 71 environmental & human rights defenders between 2015 and 2018, for a total $904m of damages.

 Ana Zbona, Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders Project Manager at the Resource Centre, said: 

“SLAPPs have a chilling effect on Human Rights Defenders' vital work highlighting damaging business practices to companies and investors.”

Elodie Aba, Senior Legal Researcher at the Resource Centre, said: 

"Investors should carry out rigorous due diligence to avoid investing in companies that use lawsuits to intimidate human rights defenders."

"Silencing the Critics" provides guidance for investors including the key questions they should ask companies to avoid risk and prevent SLAPPs against human rights defenders. 

Read the guidance here | En español

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