Category Archives: corporate accountability

OHCHR Publishes Guidelines for Businesses to Respect, Protect LGBTI Rights

UN Palais des Nations
Credit: Risuciu via Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently announced the publication of the Standards of Conduct for Business to fight discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. [OHCHR Press Release] The Standards of Conduct for Business build upon the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Global Compact – which collectively contain UN standards directed at businesses to respect and protect human rights, and remedy rights violations – to offer guidance to companies on how businesses should treat LGBTI people in the workplace and how businesses can promote LGBTI rights in the marketplace and in the community. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business (2017), 1, 5-6. Several businesses, including Accenture, Baker McKenzie, BNP Paribas, The Coca-Cola Company, Deutsche Bank, EDF, EY, Gap Inc., Godrej, IKEA Group, Microsoft, Oath, Orange, SAP, and Spotify, have already shown public support for the Standards of Conduct for Business. [OHCHR Press Release] The commentary from the OHCHR accompanying the Standards of Conduct for Business explains that domestic legal reforms alone are not enough to create inclusive communities, and, therefore, the OHCHR notes that the corporate sector not only has an obligation to respect human rights but also holds significant influence in curbing human rights abuses. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business, 15. The standards also bring together two areas in human rights protection that the international community is increasingly recognizing – businesses’ responsibility to respect, protect, and remedy human rights and violations thereof, and the human rights of LGBTI persons. [IJRC: SOGI; IJRC: Forum] Read more

Human Rights Council Establishes Special Rapporteur on Leprosy, Renews Ten Others

The current President of the Human Rights Council stands with former presidents at the start of the 32nd Session
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The United Nations Human Rights Council created or extended 11 special procedure mandates during its 35th regular session through the adoption of resolutions, including one that created the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. During the session, held from June 6 to June 23, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, the Human Rights Council also extended the mandates of eight thematic and two country special procedure mandates. [OHCHR Press Release: 35th Session] The new mandate on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members is established for a period of three years, with a mandate to monitor the progress of the implementation of the principles for the elimination of such discrimination; to identify and promote good practices; and to report on an annual basis to the Human Rights Council, a UN intergovernmental group that tracks human rights conditions in the UN Member States and is responsible for creating special procedures, or independent experts who report and give advice on particular human rights issues. [OHCHR Press Release: Leprosy] Read more

July 2017: United Nations and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session

Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
Credit: Risuciu via Wikimedia Commons

In the month of July, various universal and regional bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by engaging in interactive dialogues, considering State and civil society reports, conducting country visits, and reviewing individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to the rights of women, civil and political rights, torture, and racial discrimination. A working group will meet to discuss complaints submitted to the Human Rights Council, an expert mechanism will meet to discuss the rights of indigenous peoples, and two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights will be in session. Additionally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case concerning the right to a fair trial in Croatia.

The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court and Inter-American Commission, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website and Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit IJRC’s Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

Dutch Businessman Convicted of War Crimes Committed in Liberia and Guinea

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Credit: UN Photo/SCSL/AP Pool/Peter DeJong

On April 21, 2017, a Dutch court of appeal ruled that Dutch national Guus Kouwenhoven, acting in his capacity as president and director of two timber companies, was an accessory to war crimes including, rape, pillage, inhumane treatment, and murder committed in Liberia and Guinea between August 2000 and December 2002. See Hof ‘s-Hertogenbosch 21 april 2017, RvdW 2017, 20-001906-10 (Kouwenhoven) (Neth.) (in Dutch only). [Global Witness Press Release] The court determined that Kouwenhoven’s provision of weapons, material, personnel, and other resources to the former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in addition to his manifested intent to contribute to the commission of these grave crimes, constituted the aiding and abetting of war crimes committed by Taylor’s armed forces. The court ruled that Kouwenhoven, who assisted in the transportation and distribution of weapons, was liable both for the crimes that were directly committed with the weapons Kouwenhoven supplied and for the crimes that resulted indirectly from their use. He additionally was convicted of violating the United Nations arms embargo. See Hof ‘s-Hertogenbosch 21 April 2017 (Kouwenhoven).

The court, issuing a sentence of 19 years in prison, emphasized that with this judgment all international businessmen are put on notice that business with regimes like Charles Taylor’s can lead to involvement with and liability for international crimes. [European University Institute Blogs] While individual businessmen have been held liable for their assistance in committing war crimes in the past, such as in post-World War II trials and at least one other case in Dutch courts, civil society and academics have called for, and foresee, the increased prosecution of individuals for their assistance in the commission of war crimes through their business ties. See Trial International, Frans Van Anraat. [Global Witness Press Release] Read more

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