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Home Archive for category "Human Rights" (Page 3)

Bending the Knee or Extending the Hand to Industrial Nations? A Comment on the New Draft Treaty on Business and Human Rights

Published on August 23, 2019        Author:  and

On 16th of July, 2019, the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights published a revised draft(RD) for a treaty on business and human rights. It is the second substantial draft of such treaty after the zero draft(ZD) released exactly one year earlier. The new draft contains some big concessions to States and businesses opposing the treaty.

The OEIWG was established in 2014 by the UN Human Rights Council (through resolution 26/9) to develop a legally binding instrument to regulate, “in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises” (Art. 1 Res. 26/9). The OEIWG held its latest session in October 2018. The RD itself was prepared by the Chairman of the OEIWG over the last months. A first point of procedural criticism is thus that despite the inputs in the previous OEIWG’s sessions, there was no transparent process in the stage of drafting. The text was created by the chairman and his team alone. A drafting team consisting of legal experts representing different areas of expertise and different geographical regions would have given the draft more procedural legitimacy. The “power of the pen” should not be underestimated.

On substance, much could be said about the draft. We will focus on three particularly pertinent points: the new scope of the draft treaty; the comprehensive inclusion of human rights abuses in conflict areas; and the issue of corporate liability.

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Romeo Castaño v Belgium and the Duty to Cooperate under the ECHR

Published on August 19, 2019        Author: 

With a judgment of 9 July 2019, in the case of Romeo Castaño v Belgium, the second section of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) held unanimously that Belgium had fallen short of its procedural obligations under article 2 of the Convention for failing to cooperate with the Spanish authorities in securing the surrender of an individual sought with multiple European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) in connection with serious charges of terrorism and murder.

These findings are landmark. While it has been long established that extradition may engage the Convention under the non-refoulement principle, never before had the Court found a breach of the Convention in connection with a State’s decision not to surrender an individual sought by an extradition request or EAW.

But the salience of the judgment is not confined to extradition. In fact, the case touches upon the important issue of the ‘symmetry’ between the ECHR and EU law and brings about an important development in the doctrine of positive obligations under the Convention.

The facts of the case

The applicants in the case are the children of Colonel Ramón Romeo, who was murdered in Bilbao in 1981 by an ETA commando. In 2013, one of the suspects, N.J.E., who found herself in Belgium, was arrested pursuant to two EAWs issued by Spain. Read the rest of this entry…

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More on Public International Law and Infectious Diseases: Foundations of the Obligation to Report Epidemic Outbreaks

Published on August 15, 2019        Author: 

In his recent post on the 2018-2019 Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Villarreal inter alia mentions the connection between the International Health Regulations (IHR) and international human rights law, arguing that states’ obligations under the IHR are to be read in conjunction with those under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Obviously, the right to health enshrined therein is of utmost relevance.

While that point of view deserves full support, a further link could be traced between international human rights law and “international law of infectious diseases” – the obligation of states to report outbreaks of infectious diseases, lying at the very heart of international efforts to cope with pandemics.

This post intends to demonstrate that the reporting obligation for infectious disease outbreaks can be inferred from general legal sources such as the duty of state co-operation and the human right to health as well as from the IHR – a specific regime. The below analysis purports to show how and why this could and should be done.

Disease outbreaks and the duty to co-operate

Although the mentioned Ebola outbreak was originally reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the Government of the DRC, states may well be disincentivised to notify outbreaks of contagion, especially on crucial early stages. Hence the need for incentives for honesty in this regard, not excluding legal ones.

The IHR (Art. 6) establish the reporting duty, i.e. the obligation of states to assess events occurring within their territories using a special decision-making instrument attached to the IHR and timely notify the WHO of all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern (the legal regime for declaring a PHEIC has been discussed in the mentioned post).

The duty (sometimes referred to as the principle) of state co-operation under general international law and the specific obligation of reporting epidemic outbreaks share an obvious fundamental similarity: both pursue the same objective – addressing issues that transcend national borders and are beyond sovereign control. Although individual states are responsible for preserving public health in their territories, their efforts may be rendered meaningless without international co-operation (J. Tobin, The Right to Health in International Law (2012), p. 325). In the WHO’s words, “health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defense against transnational threats” (UNSG, Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health (2010)).

This finding, however, considerably loses in value due to the legal nature of the duty to co-operate. On the one hand, it is enshrined in the United Nations Charter (Arts.1(3), 2, 55, 56), as well as the UNGA’s 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States and has allegedly become a part of customary international law (R. Wolfrum, International Law of Cooperation (2010), para. 13). On the other hand, under the UNC, the principle of state co-operation is said to reflect one of the UN objectives rather than constitute a binding obligation (R. Wolfrum, International Law of Cooperation (2010), para. 16). The mentioned UNGA Resolution adds little clarity.

The duty to co-operate put into context

So, should it be founded upon the duty to co-operate, the obligation to report epidemic outbreaks will end up being no more enforceable than the latter. Still, there is a chance of enhancing the enforceability by putting the duty of co-operation into a specific context. Read the rest of this entry…

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Modern Slavery in the Global Food Market: A Litmus Test for the Proposed Business and Human Rights Treaty

Published on August 12, 2019        Author: 

A recent initiative to adopt the UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights (BHRT) is an attempt to correct the imbalance between rights and obligations of corporations in the field of human rights. While companies regularly invoke human rights to defend their interests, they lack corresponding obligations to respect and uphold such rights throughout their business operations. The examples of reported labour rights abuses in the Thai food industry supplying international and European markets test the capacity of the recent Draft BHRT to end impunity for human rights violations in global value chains.

Pineapple, Chicken, and Modern Slavery: Brought to You by Your Supermarket

In 2013, a Finnish NGO Finnwatch revealed serious human violations in the operations of Natural Fruit Co. Ltd., a pineapple processing company in Thailand. Natural Fruit supplied pineapple concentrate to Refresco — the Netherlands-based company with notable cus­tomers in Europe including some of the biggest supermarkets. The Finnwatch report alleged that the factory employed many undocumented workers, including children younger than the legal minimum age in Thailand, that the workers were paid less than the minimum wage prescribed by Thai laws, were forced to work overtime, had their passports and work permits confiscated, and were subject to discrimination, violence, and dangerous working conditions.

In 2016, 14 migrant workers from Myanmar filed a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) against Thammakaset Co. Ltd., a Thai-registered chicken farm, which directly supplied one of the country’s top exporters of chicken. The workers complained of the various forms of ‘labor abuse’ including forced labour and the restriction of their freedom of movement by confiscating their passports and allowing them to leave the premises for only two hours per week and under supervision. (NHRC Examination Report no. 114/B.E. 2559, 31 August 2016, on file with the author). Read the rest of this entry…

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Inviolability and the Protest at the Bahraini Embassy

Published on August 9, 2019        Author: 

This week Channel 4 News broadcast a remarkable story about a dissident who climbed onto the roof of the Bahraini Embassy in London. The man, Moosa Mohammed, was part of a larger group protesting planned executions in Bahrain, executions which have been condemned by human rights organisations. The protest and underlying cause are rightly at the centre of the story, and the broadcast captures the confusion and drama of the night in question. Mr Mohammed is accosted on the roof by embassy staff, appears to be beaten by a man with a stick, and, in his interview with Channel 4 News, asserts that the embassy staff threatened to throw him off the roof. But the broadcast is also remarkable for it shows, on cell phone footage, the Metropolitan Police breaking open the embassy doors and entering the premises.

To say it is rare to see the police of a receiving state breaking open the doors of a foreign embassy is an understatement. As the broadcast highlights, the inviolability of diplomatic premises is established in international law. In this post, I will discuss the legality under international law of the UK’s actions. For the purposes of the legal analysis I will assume both that there was, on an objective level, a threat to the life/bodily integrity of Mr Mohammed and that the police were acting on the back of their perception of that threat. This factual position is disputed by Bahrain. First, I set out the case that the UK’s actions were unlawful on the basis of the unconditional rule in Article 22(1) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Second, I suggest that the better view is that the UK’s conduct was lawful, and discuss two routes to that conclusion. Third, I discuss the Bahraini Embassy’s statement.

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Look before you leap: the 2019 extradition bill amendments in light of Hong Kong’s international human rights obligations

Published on July 25, 2019        Author: 

On the first day of July, Hong Kong celebrates Establishment Day, which commemorates the 1997 transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China. Establishment Day for Hongkongers is customarily accompanied by political protests. The widely reported 2019 protests are the direct result of a proposed amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (‘FOO’). The proposed amendment, if passed, would open up the possibility of extradition to mainland China.  Although the proposed amendment was declared “dead” by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, there is real possibility that, at one point or another, the bill will be reincarnated since under Hong Kong law a bill can be suspended or withdrawn and it is not clear that the declaration declaring it dead does either of these. As a result, people have kept pouring into the streets calling for Carrie Lam to step down, making the issue of continuing relevance.

One major point of contention of the proposal concerns the protection of human rights of those subject to transfer to China. NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch point out China’s deplorable human rights protection. While the PRC’s poor human rights track record has been documented extensively, in this contribution I wish to clarify how the amendment bill could result in a situation in which Hong Kong incurs responsibility under international human rights law – in particular article 7 ICCPR – when extraditing persons to the PRC. I do so by first discussing the proposed amendments to the FOO. Second, by explaining the international human rights standards that govern extradition and by which Hong Kong is bound (mainly the torture prohibition), I show how the proposal lacks the safeguards necessary to ensure adequate protection against torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

Proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance

The government’s justification for tabling the FOO amendment proposal lies in a brutal 2018 murder case in which a Hong Kong man killed his girlfriend while vacationing in Taiwan and fled back to Hong Kong. The Taiwanese authorities, quick to connect the dots, issued an extradition request to Hong Kong, but received no reply. The absence of action on the part Hong Kong can be explained by two alleged loopholes in the FOO: Read the rest of this entry…

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Why Arbitrate Business and Human Rights Disputes? Public Consultation Period Open for the Draft Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration

Published on July 12, 2019        Author: 

In June 2019, the Draft Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration (hereafter, “Draft BHR Arbitration Rules”) was released for global online public consultation, with the consultation period set to end by 25 August 2019.  Judge Bruno Simma chairs the global Drafting Team that has collaborated in developing the draft rules, since the Drafting Team started its work in January 2018 with the support of the City of the Hague.  (Drafting Team Members and Working Group Members all listed here.) The final version of the Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration will be published on 10 December 2019.  Before the release of the Draft BHR Arbitration Rules, the Working Group had produced a 2017 concept paper on business and human rights arbitration.  This was followed by the creation and first meetings of the Drafting Team in January 2018; the Drafting Team’s production of its Elements for Consideration in Draft Rules, Model Clauses, and Other Aspects of the Arbitral Process in time for the November 2018 Online Consultation Procedure; the April 2019 meetings of the Drafting Team and the June 2019 publication of the Summary of the Sounding Board Consultationsup to the June 2019 release of the Draft BHR Arbitration Rules.  

As described in the Draft BHR Arbitration Rules:

“The Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration provide a set of procedures for the arbitration of disputes related to the impact of business activities on human rights.  The Hague Rules are based on the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, with modifications needed to address certain issues likely to arise in business and human rights disputes.  As with the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the scope of the Hague Rules is not limited by the type of claimant(s) or respondent(s) or the type of subject-matter of the dispute and extends to any disputes that the parties to an arbitration agreement have agreed to resolve by arbitration under the Hague Rules.  Parties could thus include business entities, individuals, labor unions and organizations, States and State entities and civil society organizations. Equally, the Hague Rules purposefully do not define the terms “business”, “human rights”, or “business and human rights.” For the purposes of the Hague Rules, such terms should be thus understood at least as broadly as the meaning such terms have under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. However, in the vast majority of cases, no definition of these terms should be necessary at all.

Like the UNCITRAL Rules, the Hague Rules do not address the modalities by which the parties to the arbitration may consent to it nor the content of that consent, which are matters for the parties. Consent remains the cornerstone of business and human rights arbitration, as with all arbitration, and it can be established before a dispute arises, e.g. in contractual clauses, or after a dispute arises, e.g. in a submission agreement (compromis). Model Clauses may provide potential parties with options for expressing their consent to arbitration. In addition, like the UNCITRAL Rules, the Hague Rules do not address enforcement of arbitral awards made under these Rules, which are governed by national law and various treaty obligations, including in most cases the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. While these Rules have been conceived as a uniform set of rules, we acknowledge that the parties remain entitled to exercise their discretion in opting out of certain provisions that do not respond to their specific needs as arising out the dispute at issue. Certain other Model Clauses are being developed in this respect.” (Emphasis added.)

I have served in the Drafting Team under Judge Simma’s leadership since January 2018. My colleagues Martin Doe, Steve Ratner, and Katerina Yiannibas have helpfully crystallized elsewhere several of the main points of innovation contained in the Draft Rules, such as:

“1. provisions on facilitating settlement and mediation, and emphasizing the complementarity of arbitration to such procedures as the OECD National Contact Points system (Articles 1(6), 17(3), 42, and 51)

2. provisions to address the inequality of arms which may arise in such disputes (inter alia, Articles 5(2), 20(4), 24, 27(2), and 27(4));

3. the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration as the default appointing authority, given its intergovernmental nature and experience in business and human rights disputes (Article 6);

4. procedures for multiparty claims and joinder by third parties (Article 17-bis);

5. a procedure for the early dismissal of claims manifestly without merit, developed on the basis of similar procedures in the ICSID, SIAC, SCC, and HKIAC Rules (as well as the proposed new ICSID Rules) (Article 23-bis);

6. provisions making the arbitral tribunal’s power over interim measures more robust, and at the same time more flexible (Article 26);

7. an emergency arbitrator mechanism elaborated on the basis of the ICC and SCC Rules (Article 26-bis);

8. specialized evidentiary procedures drawn up on the basis, inter alia, of the IBA Rules and Rules of the International Criminal Court, among others (Articles 27, 28, and 30(3));

9. measures to protect the identity of parties, counsel, and witnesses where such protections are warranted by the circumstances of the case, while ensuring due process is maintained for all parties (Articles 17(5), 28(3), and 37(5));

10. provisions on transparency and third-party participation (Articles 24-bis and 33-38);

11. tailored provisions on remedies in the business and human rights context (Article 40);

12. rules on applicable law that enhance flexibility and party autonomy (Article 41);

13. rules to protect the public interest in the case of confidential settlements (Article 42(1));

14. nuanced rules in respect of costs and deposits that encourage the tribunal to sensitive to the interests of access to justice (Articles 46-49);

15. an expedited arbitration procedure for small claims (Article 52); and

16. a Code of Conduct that reflects the highest standards for independence and impartiality in international dispute resolution (Annex).”

In this post, I do not aim to provide an authoritative commentary on the Draft Rules (which is exactly what our global online consultation procedure is for).  Rather, and notwithstanding the explicit caveat drawn by the Drafting Team above on leaving the modalities and content of consent to arbitration to the parties, I instead offer my personal observations to examine the essence of main criticisms (see public comments of the Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment here as well as a few questions and comments I received at Harvard Law School in April 2019), directed against having the BHR Arbitration Rules in the first place: 1) whether companies and human rights victims would even consent to arbitration; and 2) if they do consent, whether one should view that consent with skepticism as to the authenticity of arbitration as a mode of access to justice for human rights victims.  The gist of my argument is this: while the BHR Arbitration Rules will never purport to be the exclusively prescribed mechanism for human rights victims of transnational business conduct and neither does it presume to displace State-based judicial or non-judicial remedies, against the realities of a continuing limited universe of legally binding human rights recourse against the impacts of private transnational activities, we cannot afford to close off the arbitral option either. As human rights practitioners well know, no single dispute resolution mechanism for human rights disputes against transnational business is perfect, and even recent national court victories in Lungowe v. Vedanta (as spearheaded by my BHR Drafting Team colleague Richard Meeran of Leigh Day) depend on the jurisdictional openness of a State’s judicial system to transnational tort claims.  The question, in my view, thus has to be reframed away from “why international arbitration?“, to “why not also international arbitration?“.

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Has the ECtHR in Mammadov 46(4) opened the door to findings of  ‘bad faith’ in trials?

Published on July 4, 2019        Author:  and

In the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) in Ilgar Mammadov v Azerbaijan  (Mammadov 46(4)) examined under Article 46(4) infringement proceedings, the Grand Chamber found that Azerbaijan had failed to comply with the Court’s original judgment in Ilgar Mammadov (Mammadov No.1) by refusing to release political activist Ilgar Mammadov, who was arrested on politically motivated charges (in violation of a right to liberty and security under Articles 5 and the  prohibition to restrict rights for purposes other than those prescribed by the Convention under Article 18 of the Convention).

This case is not only novel in being the first to be considered under infringement proceedings (see blogs by Başak Çali and Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou), but is also highly significant for the Court’s approach to the implications of politically motivated proceedings.  Until now the Court has been reluctant to clarify its position on whether trials and convictions can be explicitly held to be in ‘bad faith’ under Article 18 of the Convention. We argue in this blog that the Grand Chamber in this case (relating to Mr Mammadov’s arrest and pre-trial detention), went substantially further than the Chamber in the second case of the same applicant, Mammadov No. 2 (relating to his trial and conviction), and has paved the way for the Court to finally open the door to the applicability of Article 18 to a right to fair trial under Article 6, or risk incoherence. 

The Court’s approach so far to Article 18

Article 18 of the Convention provides that ‘The restrictions permitted under this Convention to the said rights and freedoms shall not be applied for any purpose other than those for which they have been prescribed.’ There is debate about whether the wording of the provision limits its applicability to ‘restricted’ rights under Articles 5 and 8-11 of the Convention (see below). Read the rest of this entry…

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The Limits of the Law: Putting Reparations into Practice

Published on July 2, 2019        Author: , , and

Reparations have recently been the hot topic from its invocation at the US Congress, the Khashoggi killing to WWII claims by Poland and Greece against Germany. Reparations have a particular legal meaning that intends to acknowledge wrongdoing and remedy as far as possible victims’ harm. Private law notions of restitution heavily imbue the concept. Indeed, the seminal case of Chorzów Factory by the Permanent Court of Justice laid the foundations for reparation in international law which ‘must, as far, as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed.’

In the past three decades we have seen an increase in reparation programmes from the German Compensation Scheme for Forced Labour, the UN Claims Commission, domestic reparation programmes such as Peru to jurisprudential strides of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the initial steps by the International Criminal Court. 2020 itself will mark fifteen years since the UN adoption of the Basic Principles for the Right to Remedy and Reparations for Gross Violations of Human Rights and Serious Breaches of International Humanitarian Law that sets the broad international standards for victims and states.

Despite these developments most victims of such violations do not receive reparations. Read the rest of this entry…

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The ESCR Revolution Continues: ILO Convention No. 190 on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work

Published on June 28, 2019        Author: 

On 21 June 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the landmark ILO Convention No. 190 (Convention concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work).  The labour standards set in this Convention were negotiated over a two year period by ILO member governments, workers’ representatives, and employers’ organizations. The adoption of Convention No. 190 is itself revolutionary, considering that an estimated around 500 million working-age women  live in countries are reported not to have any legal protections against harassment at work. The World Bank reported in 2018 that “in 59 countries, women are not legally protected from workplace sexual harassment.  The lack of legal protection is observed in 70% of the economies in the Middle East and North Africa, half (50%) in East Asia and the Pacific, and one-third (33.3%) in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

In this post, I examine the key landmark detailed provisions of ILO Convention No. 190, and why they present significantly higher protections than the more rudimentary and general provisions in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as the protections against sexual harassment indicated in the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  In my view, ILO Convention No. 190 largely closes the global regulatory gap on workplace sexual harassment, not just by repeating ICESCR and CEDAW protections, but by adopting the most sweeping application of these protections (and even more substantive protections) to all the foreseeable permutations and changing employment arrangements today in the world of work.  Institutionally, the adoption of ILO Convention No. 190 also formally opens the door for ILO’s regular supervisory system to ensure this treaty’s implementation by States ratifying ILO Convention No. 190, including special procedures under the ILO Constitution, such as the complaints procedure (Articles 26 to 34 of the ILO Constitution) enabling any ILO Member State to file a complaint with the ILO if it finds that any other ILO Member State is not “securing effective observance of any Convention which both have ratified”.  The ILO Governing Body can refer the complaint to a Commission of Inquiry for investigation.  If the respondent ILO Member State does not accept the recommendations of the Commission on Inquiry, the ILO can propose to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice.  The expansive protections against workplace sexual harassment afforded in ILO Convention No. 190 to all persons (including women) could thus also be more strongly protected in the international legal system as well as in domestic legal systems.  

In the age of MeToo and the increasing global awareness that vulnerabilities to workplace sexual harassment are highest in non-traditional work settings and arrangements where power imbalances are sharpest, ILO Convention No. 190 places human dignity at the center of the global regulatory paradigm.  It will be much harder for workplace sexual harassers and those who commit violence at the workplace to escape and avoid legal responsibility anywhere in the world.

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