This past week, coinciding with Shell’s annual shareholder meeting, human rights groups in Europe have been demanding answers from the Dutch and U.K. governments, who recently came to Shell’s defense in the Kiobel case, which accuses shell of complicity in human rights violations in Nigeria. When pressed for answers, the U.K. government issued a jaw-dropping statement: “We believe that human rights obligations rest with states and not with non-state actors such as corporations.”
For any government to make this statement in the 21st Century is just unfathomable. As multi-national corporations wield more power and influence across the world, we must ensure they are held accountable for their actions, especially when their pursuit of profits wreaks havoc on local communities. Katie Redford, ERI’s Co-Founder, wrote an impassioned blog post on these developments on the Huffington Post. She writes:
Have they not heard of Nuremberg, where corporate executives from IG Farben and other companies were prosecuted for their contributions to Nazi atrocities? We expect all actors — including corporations — to refrain from complicity in human rights abuses and to be held accountable if they fail to do so.
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to re-hear the Kiobel case in November, you can expect to hear a lot more from us about these issues, especially the increasingly far-fetched claims that corporations deserve special exemptions from human rights law.
In related news, our friends at Milieudefensie posted a satirical video this week, adding clever visual commentary to a video of Shell’s CEO discussing sustainability. Shell convinced YouTube to take the video down, alleging copyright violation, but it is still available on other sites and has been viewed more than 35 thousand times: