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Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin - Issue 15, December 2014

Welcome to our redesigned Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin, streamlined to highlight a noteworthy issue each quarter, as well as key developments.  The Corporate Legal Accountability hub on our website provides objective, concise information about lawsuits against companies in which human rights abuses are alleged.

This bulletin and previous issues are available in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Quarterly Highlight: A new path to access remedy?

Following some setbacks in national courts such as the US Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Shell, victims of corporate human rights abuse and their lawyers are looking beyond traditional judicial systems exploring new avenues to access remedy.  Among these is the International Criminal Court (ICC).  In October, Cambodian villagers filed a claim before the ICC alleging violent, widespread and systematic land seizures by the government and government-linked businesses amount to crimes against humanity.  Also in October Ecuadorian villagers requested the ICC to investigate Chevron's CEO.  They argue that the company's CEO, John Watson, violated international law by seeking to block international enforcement of an Ecuadorian judgment, and thus obstructed court-ordered clean-up of toxic contamination in the Amazon.  Chevron called the suit “another stunt”, referring to a US court ruling that refused to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment and held that it resulted from fraud.  Commenting on this move, Nadia Bernaz of Middlesex University highlighted its novelty, stressing that “Business executives, as individuals, clearly fall under the ICC’s personal jurisdiction” – while also calling the specific charges of crimes against humanity against John Watson “unsubstantiated”.  These cases present the possibility that victims might, in future, be able to obtain justice from international criminal law for justice.  Whether the ICC or other international bodies actually provide them justice will bear watching.
Legal developments

New case profiles

Lawsuit against Nevsun (re Bisha mine, Eritrea): In November 2014, three Eritreans filed a lawsuit against Nevsun Resources in Canada.  They allege the company was complicit in the use of forced labour by Nevsun’s local sub-contractor, Segen Construction, at the Bisha mine in Eritrea.  Nevsun has denied the allegations.

Lawsuit against Juren Academy (re employment gender discrimination in China): In July 2012, a female applicant sued Juren Academy, a tutoring school, over alleged gender discrimination during the recruitment process.  Juren Academy denied discriminating, but agreed to settle the case and issue an apology to the victim in December 2013.

Updates to existing case profiles

Prosecution of Blackwater USA guards (re 16 Sep 2007 shooting of civilians in Baghdad): On 22 October 2014, a jury found four Blackwater guards guilty of murder and manslaughter in relation to a shooting incident in Baghdad in 2007.  The jurors rejected the guards' claims that they had acted in self-defence.

Lawsuit against Drummond (re alleged complicity in union killings in Colombia):
On 23 September 2014, a US appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit against Drummond on the basis that the “allegations and evidence…do not show conduct focused in the United States.”

Lawsuit against Eternit and its owners (re deaths due to asbestos exposure in Italy): On 19 November 2014, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the lower court decision that sentenced Stephan Schmidheiny (former Eternit owner) to 18 years in prison and acquitted him on the grounds that the statute of limitations had passed.

Lawsuit against ExxonMobil (re security personnel's alleged violence against villagers in Aceh):
In September 2014, a US federal court held that Indonesian villagers from the Aceh province can proceed with their claims against ExxonMobil. 

Lawsuit against Occidental (re alleged complicity in aerial bombing attack in Colombia): In November 2014, a US appeals court dismissed this case on the basis that there were insufficient connections to the US for the case to be heard in a US court. 

Lawsuit against Pfizer (re drug test that allegedly caused deaths in Nigeria): In November 2014, Pfizer paid out compensation to victims of the 1996 Trovan clinical trial as set forth in a 2009 settlement agreement between the victims and Pfizer.

Lawsuit against Shell (re oil spills & Bodo community in Nigeria): In November 2014, documents produced in the UK High Court suggested that Shell had been warned about the “risk and hazard” of the pipeline before the oil spill that affected the Bodo community.  Shell "dismisses the suggestion that it has knowingly continued to use a pipeline that is not safe to operate".

The complete list of cases profiled on our website is available here.
New - International lawyer directory
We have recently published an international directory of lawyers working on cases alleging human rights abuse involving companies.  The aim of this directory is to help victims of abuse to find legal assistance, and to help lawyers to work together more effectively across countries and regions.
New blog posts
"Closing the courtroom door: Where can victims of human rights abuse by business find justice?", Sif Thorgeirsson, Manager, Corporate Legal Accountability, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

"From plunder to prosperity: How legal accountability can help manage natural resource wealth in Africa", Aliou Diouf, Francophone Africa Researcher, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

"The uphill battle against impunity for business-related human rights abuses", Sif Thorgeirsson, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

"An International Arbitration Tribunal: The solution to ensure access to justice for victims of corporate human rights abuses?", Elodie Aba, Legal Researcher, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

If you are interested in contributing to a guest post on corporate legal accountability, please contact us. 
Other news
International Bar Association guidance for bar associations & lawyers on implementing UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre event on "Ensuring Access to Effective Judicial & Non-Judicial Remedies: Progress, Trends & Recommendations, co-organised with ICAR, CORE, ECCJ, FIDH and Larry Backer (Pennsylvania State Univ.) at 2014 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

Mary Robinson Speaker Series on Business & Human Rights (31 Oct) on “Managing Congo’s resource wealth – from plunder to shared prosperity?”

Coming in January 2015: Third Annual Briefing on Corporate Legal Accountability by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
If you would like to submit an entry for consideration in the next bulletin, give us feedback, know someone who would like to receive the bulletin, or wish to unsubscribe, please contact Elodie Aba, Legal Researcher, at aba [at]
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