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Strategic litigation on forced labour could lead the way for structural change in global supply chains, says NGO

Author: Linde Bryk & Claudia Müller-Hoff, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), on Oxford Human Rights Hub (UK), Published on: 6 September 2017

“Of Slaves and Slave Masters: Strategic Litigation to Address Forced Labour in Global Supply Chains”, 6 Sep 2017

Modern slavery in Qatar and other Gulf countries has received a lot of attention in light of the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup…[W]e are dealing here with forced labour rather than slavery…

…The difficulty in litigating these cases lies not with finding a cause of action against forced labour. In most jurisdictions, it would certainly constitute a tort, and also allow for criminal charges. Yet, where local remedies are ineffective, the question is the question is whether those at the upper end of the supply chain can be held to account. Workers…are often so deprived of information…[and] it would be risky to expose them publicly as plaintiffs or witnesses in a strategic legal action…

…[A]s long as (labour) supply chains are opaque and long, workers will be deprived of an effective remedy and companies will be able to effectively evade responsibility. Transparency and disclosure of (labour) supply chains must therefore be made mandatory…[H]uman rights due diligence (HRDD)…could govern sustainable supply chain management.

…[C]ontractors should address relevant risk factors such as passport retention,…recruitment fee debts... They should be able to show how they monitor and manage these risks along the supply chain…, heightened requirements for HRDD should apply. Strategic litigation could help to develop concrete HRDD standards, and hence could lead the way for structural change.

Read the full post here