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Our top stories this week: 30 January 2018
Lead Story
Brazil: Vale tailings dam collapses causing more than 80 deaths, hundreds missing & significant environmental damage

CNBC; Brazil community activists; Business & Human Rights Resource Centre; CHRB

  • Brazil's Prosecutor General said country intends to pursue criminal charges against company executives; Three Vale employees & two contractors arrested
  • Victims of the 2015 Samarco dam collapse, a Vale-BHP Billiton mining project in the same state, released a statement calling for justice & remedy
  • This disaster highlights the need for tougher regulation on companies to assess the human rights risks of their operations and supply chains
  • Corporate Human Rights Benchmark removed Vale from its 2018 ranking in the wake of the tragedy 
photo credit: Guilherme Venaglia

Company responses & non-responses

From Us

Inhospitable: How hotels in Qatar & the UAE are failing migrant workers
  • We surveyed 17 hotel companies with more than 200 properties across Qatar & Dubai regarding protection of migrant workers
  • Only seven responded & just three mentioned migrant workers in their human rights policies; See here for more findings & short video
On Shaky Ground: Migrant workers’ rights in Qatar & UAE construction
  • Survey examines how construction companies address human rights risks for migrant workers 
  • Report found that a small group demonstrates real commitment to tackling these risks, but the majority disregard workers' welfare; See here for analysis & recommendations
New on our technology & human rights blog:

International

Gemfields settles UK claim over alleged human rights abuses at ruby mine in Mozambique for GBP 5.8 million

Fin24; Leigh Day


Decoding what BlackRock CEO's 2019 letter means for "purpose" & companies' role to address societal issues 

Forbes; BSR; BlackRock


ILO calls on govts. to commit to ten specific measures to address labour rights challenges caused by AI, climate change & other transformational changes 

ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work  

  • Recommendations include a universal guarantee protecting fundamental worker rights; guaranteed social protection & tranformative agenda for gender equality
Canadian Supreme Court to decide whether case against Nevsun over alleged use of forced labour at Eritrea mine can proceed

MiningWatch Canada; CBC News; National Magazine (Canada)

  • See summary of lawsuit here
Dutch ship company fined for beaching vessel on Indian beach under conditions causing health & environmental damage

Hellenic Shipping News

  • Beaching - breaking apart an end-of-life ship on a beach instead of an industrial site - puts workers at risk & can cause irreperable damage to the environment

Africa

S. Africa: Court upholds ruling dismissing coal mine license as permission had been granted "without public participation"

Times Live (South Africa)


Kenya: Report explores human rights activists' perception & understanding of communications surveillance risks

National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (Kenya)


Mapping of artisanal & small-scale mining in Tanzania reveals high prevalence of child labour and health & safety hazards

African Arguments

  • Report also examined potential benefits including job creation

Americas

Mexico: Goldcorp accused of threatening opponents of its Peñasquito mine 

NTR Zacatecas

  • We invited Goldcorp to respond; response provided
USA: Court dismisses racketeering charges brought by Canadian logging company to silence activists criticising its environmental impact

Center for International Environmental Law; Inside Climate News; Greenpeace

  • In 2016 Resolute Forest Products sued Greenpeace, Stand.earth & five individuals for defamation & racketeering
  • Judge ruled that defamation & unfair competition claims could continue
  • Summary of lawsuit available here
Colombia: 14 NGOs express support for local community alleging loss of land, livelihood & access to water caused by Cerrejon Coal

Democracy Center, Indepaz & 12 other orgs.

  • We invited Cerrejon Coal to respond; response provided
USA: Google urged US Govt. to narrow legal protection for workers organising online

Bloomberg; Google Workout for Real Change

  • Article includes company comments

Asia & Pacific

Australia: Report highlights ten alleged cases of human rights abuses by Australian companies operating abroad; includes recommendations for reform

Human Rights Law Centre

  • We invited Curtain Bros to respond; it declined 
Malaysia: Condom supplier to UK NHS and major retailers accused of 'shameful' working conditions & labour abuses

Telegraph (UK)

  • Article includes comments from supplier Karex & retailers Superdrug, Tesco & Durex
India: Proposed cyber rules would require internet companies to remove content deemed threatening to country's "sovereignty & integrity"

Asia News Network


Myanmar: Displaced villagers urge govt. to halt Chinese-funded Myitsone hydropower project

Myanmar Times

Europe & Central Asia

Azerbaijan: Activists condemn media smear campaign against human rights defender who criticised national oil company SOCAR

Turan News Agency

  • We invited SOCAR, to respond; response provided
Uzbekistan: NGO alleges Spanish-Uzbek joint ventures use forced labour in cotton fields; highlights deaths of two employees 
  • We invited Ammofos-Maxam and Maxam-Chirchiq to respond; they did not respond
Germany to shut down all coal-fired power plants by 2038

Los Angeles Times


UK: NGO denounces the abuse of non-disclosure agreements by companies to silence women in maternity discrimination cases

Guardian (UK)


Only a tenth of Finland's largest companies have integrated SDGs into their business & sustainability strategies, according to report

FIANT Consulting & 3bility Consulting

Middle East & North Africa

Egyptian labour rights defenders facing “worst repression in decades”, according to report

FrontLine Defenders

  • French industrial company Naval Group, which has a one billion euro shipbuilding contract with the Egypt Govt., was allegedly present at the Alexandria shipyard during mass firings & military trial of striking workers in 2016
  • We invited Naval Group to respond; response provided
Israeli cyber security company allegedly provided software to Saudi Govt. to spy on Khashoggi, before targeting NGO that broke story

Associated Press; NPR

  • Article includes comments from the company involved, NSO Group
  • Citizen Lab believes it was targeted by undercover agents after reporting on links between NSO Group & Saudi Govt. 
Jordan: Workplace injuries occurred every 40 minutes in 2017 & death every other day, report finds

Jordan Times

Company responses Non-responses

Events

Forthcoming events: 
  • Webinar on Investor Responsibility to Respect Human Rights (1 Feb, Webinar)
  • END Slavery Programme (5-12 Feb, online)
  • The state of corporate sustainability disclosure under the EU NFR Directive (8 Feb, Brussels)
  • 2019 OECD Forum on Due Diligence Guidance in the Garment and Footwear Sector (13-14 Feb, Paris)
  • Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders (26 Feb, Oxford)
Details of these & other future events can be found here. Please send relevant event information to Maja Janjic: janjic@business-humanrights.org.

Jobs

Vacancies at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: Other vacancies: Further details & other recently posted jobs available here. To submit a new job announcement in business & human rights please go here.
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