This morning in Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Council met for a review of the human rights obligations of the United States—including obligations to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses, which were highlighted by comments from India.
The session was part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, in which the council reviews each U.N. member state’s human rights obligations every four years. As part of the UPR process, NGOs and other stakeholders can make submissions highlighting particular issues; ERI participated in this process by assisting in a coalition submission on corporate accountability and also by making a specific submission on the U.S. government’s position in human rights cases in U.S. courts.
The Indian ambassador to the U.N., Gopinathan Achamkulangare, began his comments by highlighting the problem of corporate human rights abuses and questioning the U.S. delegation on the government’s position on the Alien Tort Statute, as well as the recent decision in Kiobel v. Shell:
[Audio (requires RealPlayer)]
Persistent concerns have been expressed about human rights abuses by business corporations that have often negated their positive impact on economic development and human rights. We would request an evaluation of the U.S. government’s position on its Alien Torts Claims Act, under which foreign plaintiffs can bring lawsuits against U.S. companies for breaches of international law, including human rights law, committed by these companies outside the U.S. territory, and the recent judgment on this law by a New York circuit court that denies such recourse.
This follows an event in Geneva yesterday (link to CCR page), co-sponsored by ERI, in which victims of corporate human rights abuses and human rights advocates discussed the problem of corporate accountability in the U.S.
Unfortunately, the U.S. delegation, led by two stalwarts of the human rights movement—Harold Koh (currently Legal Adviser at the State Department) and Michael Posner (Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor)—did not address the corporate accountability concerns. Given the limited time for responses, this is not much of a suprise; ERI will continue to engage with the U.S. administration to ensure that the government supports corporate accountability and does not undermine human rights law in U.S. courts.