The human rights lawyers challenging corporate abuse

Conectas (Brazil) describe their legal accountability work

There are lawyers on the ground all over the world, directly helping affected people challenge abuse by companies and obtain justice. Their work is crucial, but often not widely publicised.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has built an international directory of lawyers working on cases of human rights abuse involving companies. The directory aims to help victims of abuse find legal assistance in a range of countries – including countries where victims are located and countries where companies are based.  It also aims to help lawyers learn about peer lawyers working on business & human rights cases, in their own countries and others.

Lawyers Directory                                  Blog: our overview

Whilst building this directory, we took time to interview lawyers to better understand their experience of corporate legal accountability. This is what they had to say:

 

I am very excited about accountability strategies that push beyond litigation…the adoption of worker-driven social responsibility initiatives is demonstrating the transformative potential of human rights initiatives grounded in rights-holder design, monitoring,& enforcement.

Benjamin Hoffman, Acting Director, Human Rights Clinic of  Columbia Law School (USA)

Full interview


 

To hold the perpetrator accountable is complicated, especially in human rights, environmental and cultural cases…Support from lawyers, NGOs in documentation for instance is helpful to assist the community to access justice.

Sophorn Sek, Rights & Business Law Office (Cambodia)

Full interview

 

It is always important that companies that cause mass injury be called to account, and class actions are one way of doing that works really well. Independently funded class actions add some balance to the playing field [...]

 

Ben Slade, legal counsel, Maurice Blackburn (Australia)

Full interview

 

The Huaraz case was mostly made possible by the advancement of science [...] There has never been a similar case in front of German courts.

 

We are suing RWE because it is the single largest European emitter, and its historical responsibility for climate change is huge.

Dr. Roda Verheyen, legal counsel in Lliuya v. RWE

 

The Huaraz case represents the first lawsuit in Europe where a person affected by the hazards of climate change has sued a private company, which is the biggest emitter of Europe.

 

The case itself is an example of climate justice par excellence: its purpose is to support especially vulnerable people affected by climate change.

Roxana Baldrich, Policy Advisor and Christoph Bals, Policy Director, Germanwatch

Full interview

 

With [this possible lawsuit against Shell we are] hoping to create a precedent that raises the legal pressure on oil and gas companies worldwide to act on climate change and keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Roger Cox, lawyer at Paulussen Advocaten (Netherlands)  

A public debate on the topics related to our case [against Shell] is...important to raise awareness on the severity of climate change and the history of climate deception by the fossil fuel industry.

Laurie Van Der Burg, campaigner and researcher at FoE Netherlands/Milieuedefensie (Netherlands)

Full interview

 

It would be really helpful to have legislation that clearly spelled out the obligation of business to recognise, uphold and protect human rights of employees and communitites.

Jia Yaw Kiu, Malaysian Bar Association

 

 

There are many cases of criminalisation of human rights defenders in Indonesia...We must expose the company's human rights abuses towards comunities.

Erik Coubut, lawyer (Indonesia)

Video interview

 

In most cases of human rights abuses caused by companies, the loss the victims face is huge and cannot be recovered without serious efforts from the government or the business entity...Often, the victim will not have the strength to face a long court process and the prolonged process will cause the business to pay more.

Luis Miguel Cano López, PODER (Mexico)

Audio interview (in Spanish) / Transcript (in Spanish)

 

The business community should ensure that their policies are human rights compliant and have an internal accountability test every year so as to ensure a minimum to zero rights violation.

Roger Chan Weng Keng, Malaysia Bar Council

Full interview

 

In most cases of human rights abuses caused by companies, the loss the victims face is huge and cannot be recovered without serious efforts from the government or the business entity...Often, the victim will not have the strength to face a long court process and the prolonged process will cause the business to pay more.

Febi Yonesta, LBH Jakarta (Indonesia)

Full interview

 

When we talk about legal remedies, it does not only mean compensation, it also involves prevention – stopping an abuse before it happens.

 Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla, Community Resource Centre (Thailand)

 

Full interview

 

 

Companies’ awareness is increasing, and they are gradually understanding that they cannot expect to abuse the rights of communities and remain unpunished.

 Foromo Frédéric Loua,  Les Mêmes Droits pour Tous
 (Guinea
)

Full interview - Disponible en français

 

When a company violates abuses human rights, we demand reparations for the victims for damages rather than getting into lengthy legal procedures, and that is less expensive for them.  That is the spirit of the Guiding Principles.

Emmanuel Umpula Nkumba, AFREWATCH (DRC)


Full interview - Disponible en français

  

Both the State and companies should comply with the law, judicial rulings and the obligations assumed in the agreements by which they themselves agreed to abide.

Danilo Chammas, lawyer and activist for Justiça nos Trilhos (Justice on the Rails, Brazil)

Full interview

 

Human rights & environmental defenders speak out on legal accountability 

Our example of resistance to this devastating project inspired many initiative groups across all of Russia to defend their own environmental rights.

Evgeniya Chirikova, Russian environmental activist 

 

Full interview - Русский

 

Other lawyers fighting for corporate legal accountability

There’s got to be someone there that can bat for the underdogs

Charles Abrahams, Abrahams Kiewitz Inc.

 

Full article

 

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Wolfgang Kaleck, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights"

We are in the middle of a struggle where we hold that corporations have to be held accountable. Meanwhile, the corporate community is trying to immunize themselves from any sort of legal regulations

Wolfgang Kaleck, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

 

Full article

 

Lawyer "became DuPont's worst nightmare" by uncovering toxic pollution, seeking to hold it accountable

Robert Bilott, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP

 

Full article

 

I want to see a world without deliberate and unnecessary exploitation by multinational companies

Terry Collingsworth, Conrad & Scherer

 

Full article

 

More needs to be done to improve judicial remedies for victims of multinationals' human rights abuses

Martyn Day, Leigh Day

 

Full article