EU gives firms licence to abuse human rights overseas
(Brussels, 25 October 2011) Amnesty International has expressed its disappointment at the shortcomings reflected in the European Commission’s new corporate social responsibility strategy, asserting that the strategy fails to include adequate measures to protect people and communities from human rights abuses committed by EU businesses operating abroad.
“The Commission claims human rights are essential to corporate social responsibility, but this emphasis is nowhere to be seen in its action plan”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “The Commission has missed a vital opportunity to protect people’s human rights from abuse by companies domiciled in EU countries.”
Amnesty International has accused the Commission of failing to grasp the urgency of this issue.Some European companies are causing or contributing to severe human rights harm through their business operations outside the EU, often taking advantage of less developed legal and accountability systems. Recent such abuses include two oil leaks from a Shell pipeline in 2008 which caused devastating damage to the environment and affected some 69,000 Nigerians living in the Bodo area of the Niger Delta,to which the subsidiary has admitted liability in a British court, and Monterrico Metals PLC, which has agreed to compensate 33 Peruvian victims tortured by police after protesting against mining operations of a Monterrico subsidiary.
“It’s not enough for the Commission to invite companies to practise due diligence to prevent harm to human rights”, said Beger. “The Commission and EU countries must each introduce the necessary laws. They must also ensure the people and communities affected have adequate access to information about the human rights impact of business operations and, if human rights are impaired, to adequate remedies.”
Amnesty International has called for EU companies to be held to account for their role in causing or contributing to human rights abuses abroad. The list of perceived shortcomings in the Commission’s strategy include:-
o No specific action suggested on implementing international standards on business and human rights, including the UN Framework and Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights at EU level
o The failure to introduce laws requiring the establishment of policies and practices for carrying out corporate due diligence to prevent harm to human rights
o The failure to stress the need to make access to justice feasible and affordable for victims of human rights abuses by European companies, their subsidiaries and suppliers
o Failure to ensure that communities affected by business operations have full access to information which indicates risks to human rights so they may themselves assess whether and to what extent business operations will harm their rights
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Media & Communications Officer
European Institutions Office, Amnesty International
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