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Kenya: Victims of violence at Unilever plantation complain to the UN that company failed to take protective and redress measures

"Victims of violence at Unilever tea plantation take complaint to the UN"

The complaint is brought to the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), REDRESSKituo Cha Sharia, the Corporate Responsibility Coalition (CORE), the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA) and Leigh Day, who represents the 218 victims and has filed the complaint on their behalf.  The victims were (and in some cases continue to be) employees and residents of Unilever’s vast Kericho tea plantation in Western Kenya, which houses over ten per cent of the multinational’s global workforce. In December 2007, during post-election turmoil, large groups of attackers invaded the Unilever plantation, assaulting hundreds of workers and their families solely based on their ethnicity. Seven people died in the attacks, many others were raped and seriously hurt. The survivors still suffer from physical and psychiatric injuries.  

The complaint makes three allegations against Unilever: 

  1. Unilever placed the victims in a position of significant risk of attack on their plantation and yet has refused to provide adequate redress or assistance to the victims. This was the most serious known case of human rights abuse suffered by the largest concentration of Unilever workers anywhere in the world and yet Unilever has failed to take adequate steps to address and remediate the impacts.
  2. After the violent events, Unilever failed to provide appropriate assistance to the victims and instead unilaterally stopped their wages for a six-month period, further exacerbating their situation.
  3. Facing a specific request for remedy from the 218 victims of ethnic violence in 2016 in the form of a civil claim for damages against Unilever in England, the company refused any remediation and sought to block any prospect of access to remedy by hiding behind its corporate structure. In order to prevent the claims from proceeding in England, Unilever insisted that it could not be held legally responsible for any failings of their Kenyan subsidiary, while knowing that these claims could not be brought in Kenya.