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International jury rules in favour of binding laws for Transnational Corporations

Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity

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Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal hears compelling testimony from impacted communities while the United Nations Human Rights Council debates a historic proposal to adopt binding codes for TNCs

June 26, 2014, Geneva – On Monday June 23rd, representatives from communities impacted by the operations of Glencore, Chevron, Shell and Coca-Cola, among others, presented cases of systematic human rights violations committed by Transnational Corporations (see cases in Annex). The common theme of lack of access to justice for the victims of intimidation, persecution, murder and environmental destruction cut across all of the cases that were presented during the hearing.

 

After considering the testimony the Jury presented a statement wherein it recommends the adoption of binding codes for TNCs and the implementation of an International Economic Tribunal as well as an International Center on TNCs. The statement recognized the efforts of many members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to kick-start a process of building a binding treaty to control the activities of TNCs representing an important first step towards ending the systemic impunity that was present in all of the cases considered by the Tribunal.

 

According to the jury’s statements “the cases analyzed in the [Geneva] session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal represent a clear example of the operations of corporations and their practices of violations of rights.” Based on the testimony at the Hearing in addition to the thousands of well documented cases of violations worldwide the jury confirmed that these actions committed by TNCs are not isolated and unconnected cases, but rather are part of a systematic global pattern created and facilitated by a political, economic and legal regime that protects corporations from litigation brought forward by victims of corporate crimes.

 

The jury heard from victims of the decades-long oil pollution caused by Chevron in the Ecuadorean Amazon and of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria that illustrated the long-standing impunity by big oil companies. The mining industry was also on trial through the troubling cases of mining giant Glencore in the Philippines, Peru, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. Cases were presented involving the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim Mining / Oceana Gold Corporation, in El Salvador and of United Kingdom based Lonmin in South Africa. Other cases discussed how human rights have been systematically violated by the Coca-Cola Company in Colombia; by Israel’s water services company Mekorot in Palestine; and by the Spanish Hydro dam company’s operations in Hidralia in Guatemala.

 

The case of Anglo-Swiss mining corporation Glencore was emblematic of the global reach of a single corporation. Testimony from communities affected by the company in Peru, Colombia, Zambia and the Philippines provided a clear example of how TNCs can operate worldwide with complete impunity. Gillarme Joy Pelino from the Social Action Center-Marbel, representing the Bla’an indigenous peoples in the Philippines who have been affected by the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, owned and operated by Glencore Xstrata, Australian company Indophil and a local subsidiary commented that “the mining project will directly impact five ancestral domains displacing 4,000 mostly indigenous people. The mine will damage food and water sources and will eventually lead to social unrest. Due to resistance from the Bla’an People, military and para-military forces have been deployed in the area, causing human rights violations and killings of anti-mining Indigenous Peoples leaders. The people have no other demand, except for the mining corporations and investors involved to stop the militarization and put an end to the project.

 

Pablo Fajardo, a community leader from Ecuador, accused Chevron-Texaco for its “systematic pollution of the Ecuadorean Amazon which has devastated the eco-system, caused hundreds of deaths from cancer, and severely affected many indigenous peoples.” Fajardo continued saying that “after over 20 years of legal action including a conviction in Ecuador’s Supreme Court, Chevron-Texaco has used its economic and political power to avoid complying with the ruling to provide compensation. Clearly there is a need for a binding treaty in order to provide impacted communities access to justice for ongoing human rights violations and environmental crimes.”

 

The United Nations Human Rights Council has been debating the concept of creating a binding code, or treaty, which if adopted and implemented would allow victims of violations an important avenue for accessing justice. The Geneva Hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal was part of a week of mobilization that was organized in part to demonstrate to the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that there is an urgent need for a binding treaty in order to open the door for victims to achieve justice. The Geneva hearing of the PPT was organized in part by the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power.

 

About the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power

Launched in June 2012, the Campaign was established to facilitate a cooperative movement of solidarity between existing local, national and global movements and networks in order to increase the visibility of resistances to transnational corporations (TNCs) violations around the world. For more information and to see a list of participants and signatories please see: http://www.stopcorporateimpunity.org/

 

About the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal:

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal was established on June 24, 1979 by Lelio Basso, lawyer, Senator, and writer, one of the “fathers” of the Italian Constitution. It is a so-called ‘opinion tribunal’, inspired by the experience of the Russell tribunals on Vietnam (1966-1967) and Latin America dictatorships (1974-1976). It bases its activity on the 1976 Algiers Declaration on the Right of Peoples. The PPT raises public awareness of legal shortcomings affecting the marginalised communities and peoples non-recognised as subjects of rights, in order to provide voiceless victims with a stand of visibility and a possibility of claim, recognition and remedy of their rights.

 

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Diana Aguiar: dianaguiar@gmail.com + 41 (0) 779127121

Richard Girard: richard@polarisinstitute.org +41 (0) 779127121

 

Annex

Cases of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Hearing (Geneva, 23rd June 2014)

 

Mining Cluster

 

Glencore PLC

The accused corporation is the Anglo-Swiss Glencore PLC, a company involved in metals trade and mining all over the world. The contested actions occurred in several areas of four different countries, and were perpetrated through different subsidiaries, namely:

 

Glencore in Philippines

Testimony: Rene Pamplona (Social Action Center-Marbel, representing the Bla’an indigenous peoples – Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)

 

Summary: In the Philippines, through Xstrata Copper, Indophil Resouces NL and Sagittarius Mines, Inc., in the municipalities of Malungon (Sarangani), Columbio (Sultan Kudarat), Tampakan (South Cotabato) and Kiblawan (Davao del Sur), as well as four provinces in the Davao Region and the Regions XI and XII. Here the corporation is accused of deceptions, damage to property, desecration of burial grounds and sacred sites, illegal detentions, killings, and other violations of human rights, most of them perpetrated by means of financing and deploying military and para-military groups, and in order to foster its Tampakan Copper-Gold Project. This project will impact directly watersheds, forests and ancestral domains, at the expenses and despite the dissent of indigenous and local people, particularly the Bla’an People, and in violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal People, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and the Local Government Code 1991.

 

Glencore in Zambia

Testimony: Edward Gorma (Centre for Trade Policy and Development)

 

Summary: In the area of Mufulira, Zambia, and through its subsidiary Mopani Copper Mines, the corporation is responsible for the pollution of land, waters and air, particularly due to the uncontrolled emissions of sulphate dioxide, which dramatically affects the local populations causing severe respiratory diseases, and contaminating the fauna and flora upon which they depend almost completely for their own sustainment. The corporation is also responsible, as it was also indicated by an independent audit, of distorting their balances in order to avoid taxes and distract funds out of the country, thus depriving Zambia of the sovereign right to perceive the profit of the exploitation of its natural resources, and consequently the possibility of implementing necessary public policies with the income derived from mining. In this sense the activities of the corporation violate not only the most basic human and peoples’ rights recognised by international law, but also, as recognised by the aforementioned audit, the OECD norms on transnational corporations activities.

 

 

Glencore in DRC

Testimony: David Van Wyk (Benchmarks) (Through Videoconference)

 

Summary: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the mining area of Kolwezi, Katanga and through its subsidiary Kamato Copper Company, the corporation is responsible for allowing child labour, for employing expatriates who are not aware of their rights and thus live in conditions of extreme poverty and marginalisation, perpetrating fraud and corruption to smuggle minerals out of the country, avoiding fiscal and tax obligations by keeping management secreted from local authorities, causing air and water pollution, and finally harassing those who protest against their activities through subsidiary security companies. These activities are in violation of general international human rights and labour regulations, and also more specifically of the Basic Principles and Guideline issues by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the 2000 Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, the 1979 UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Official.

 

Glencore in Peru

Testimony: Jaime Cesar Borda Pari (Coordinación de Muqui Sur)

 

Summary: In Peru the company is responsible for the mining unit of Antapaccay, in Espinar, Cuzco, and in this context is accused of several human rights violations, such as violent restraint of community mobilisations, the blocking of investigations and workers’ and judicial actions by means of harassment, intimidation and corruption. Glencore is also responsible for polluting water and land, the contamination of which resulted in deaths, miscarriages, birth defects, and loss of food sovereignty for the local population. The company is therefore accused of violating the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, based on the duty of the state to protect and the corporate responsibility to respect and provide access to remedy, as well as the American Convention of Human Rights, and the International working standards of the International Labour Organisation.

 

Glencore in Colombia – PRODECO and El Cerrejón cases

Testimony: Andrea Torres (Tierra Digna)

Testimony: Luis Enrique Uriana  (Indigenous leader of the Resguardo Wayuu Provincial) – filmed testimony

 

Summary: In Colombia, through its subsidiaries PRODECO and Carbones del Cerrejón LLC, and through its participation in FENOCO, Glencore is accused of defrauding the public treasury through unpaid royalties of 500 million pesos, as well evading tax obligations. The company is constantly in non-compliance of legal and contractual obligations with regard to mitigation, prevention and compensation of environmental impacts derived from its activities, such as pollution of air, land, and water, unauthorized deforestation, undue intervention in watercourses, and the spilling of toxic waste, among others. Moreover, as a consequence of extractive activities, the quality of life of local communities has been drastically reduced, especially with regard to social conflicts (both with the public authorities and the mining enterprise), militarization and intervention of the enterprise in local policy, demographic distortions, and restrictions to the use of land, air and water to the point of causing several forced displacements for which there was no compensation. The foregoing is a blatant violation of the previous consultation procedure established in the 169 ILO Convention, of the American Convention of Human Rights, of the Colombian Constitution, of the Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, as well as of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

 

Pacific Rim in El Salvador

Testimony: Saúl Baños (Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica de El Salvador)

 

Summary: The accused is the Canadian based Pacific Rim Mining Corporation for its activities in the Department of Cabañas in El Salvador. When Pacific Rim carried out exploratory activities in the region the local communities, who were well aware of the impacts of mining operations, denied Pacific Rim further access to their lands. Indeed, a Report of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature about the El Dorado mine project confirmed the communities’ concerns, especially referring to environmental damage, reduction of access to water, water pollution and impacts over health and agriculture. The intention of Pacific Rim to exploit the gold mine in Cabañas has originated conflicts, worsened social divisions, and incremented threats and violence which still have to be investigated, like the murder of several environmental activists in 2011. Pacific Rim, even without producing sufficient environmental studies, denied all of these allegations and sued the government of El Salvador for 300 million dollars before the ICSID Tribunal of the World Bank, even though the core of the controversy is not with the state but with the independently organised communities that would be affected by the mining project. International Investment Law has to foster transparent and strongly guaranteeing regimes, however these should be compatible with international and national human rights standards instead of undermining them, in this case especially with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Constitution and Environmental Law of the Republic of El Salvador.

 

Lonmin in South Africa

Testimony: Joseph Mathunjwa (President of AMCU), on woman from Marikana (name to be confirmed), and Dick Forslund  (Through Videoconference)

 

Summary: The accused corporation is the UK based platinum miner Lonmin. The accusations are based on Lonmin’s activities carried out in Marikana, Rustenburg, South Africa, since 2004. Generally, Lonmin is responsible for the environmental damage caused by exceeding the limits of emission of dust, sulphur dioxide, and calcium sulphide, and for causing water pollution with illegal discharges. Moreover, and with regard to the workers it employs, Lonmin is involved in the Marikana Massacre of August 16, 2012, in which 34 workers were killed and 78 were injured by South African Police Forces and Lonmin Security while pacifically protesting. The protest resulted from a five months struggle with the company for decent living wages and the fact that it did not keep its promises. Due to the strong interest that the government has in the corporation there is no recourse at national, regional or international level for either environmental damages or the massacre. Needless to say, Lonmin’s behaviour, as well as the complicity of the South African government, are blatantly in violation of international human rights law, especially of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in breach of basic international labour standards, recognised by the International Labour Organisation.

 

Oil Cluster

 

Chevron in Ecuador

Testimony: Pablo Fajardo (Unión de Afectados por Chevron-Texaco – UDAPT)

 

Summary: The accused corporation is US based Chevron (formerly Texaco), for the damages resulted from the extracting activities that have been carried out since 1964 in over 1,5 million hectares in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  The company admittedly spilled over 60 billion liters of toxic waste and approximately 650,000 barrels of oil in the area. The reparation, imposed by the Ecuadorean government, was carried out poorly, and resulted in a mere covering up which has had no effect on the damage and its negative effects, which still endure. In the affected areas cancer rates are extraordinarily high, and the indigenous peoples, including the Tetetes and Sansahuari who previously lived in the area are now extinct, while the Cofanes, Sionas and Siekopai risk a similar fate, as they have fled to other regions. Moreover, local farmers were left with infertile land, and lost their livestock, which is dying or has died due to the contamination. In 2013 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ecuador has condemned Chevron to pay 9,500 million dollars of damages, thus recognizing that the company’s activities violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador which was the first in history to recognize the rights to nature.

 

Shell in Nigeria

Testimony: Goodwin Ojo (Friends of the Earth Nigeria)

 

Summary: The accused corporation is Royal Dutch Shell, based in the Netherlands, for the actions carried out by its subsidiaries in Nigeria, namely those of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (Shell Nigeria). Shell Nigeria has been violating Nigerian laws prohibiting gas flaring since 1984, and with its leaks has transformed the once fertile wetlands of the Niger delta into the world’s largest oil disaster. Several studies point to the devastating effects of gas flaring on people and the environment, first and foremost the United Nations Environmental Programme 2011 Assessment Report, especially referring to the 1 million people affected by hydrocarbon pollution in surface water in Ogoniland, where benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical, was found in drinking water at a level 900 times above the standards of the World Health Organization. Fisheries in the area are completely destroyed, affecting at least 5 million fishermen who lack resources to pursue court cases, as well as crops and vegetation for the effect of acid rain, which has also caused miscarriages, deformed births, respiratory illnesses, and cancer. The consequences of the activity of Shell Nigeria, undisputed in the substance, are in violation of Article 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which recognizes the right of all peoples to a satisfactory environment favourable to their development, and of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria, which recognizes a number of fundamental rights including the right to life and dignity of human person.

 

Water Cluster

 

Mekorot in Palestine

Testimony: Abeer Al Butmeh (Stop the Wall / Pengon)

 

Summary: The accused corporation is the state-owned Tel Aviv based Mekorot Israeli National Water Company. Mekorot, in collaboration with the state of Israel, is accused of: implementing (water) apartheid and discrimination of Palestinians by restricting water supplies to Palestinian communities in order to supply Israeli settlers, and for discriminatory water prices, charging Palestinians higher rates than Israelis;supporting illegal settlements by supplying water stolen from Palestinian territory, thus participating in the illegality of the settlements themselves by building water infrastructures which are essential to their development. The company is also accused of committing the international crime of pillaging natural resources in the occupied territories. The breach of the right to water violates Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as several other human rights , such as the rights to health, adequate housing and food, to which water is essential, thus also violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the 64/292 UN GA Resolution recognizing the right to water and sanitation. Moreover, since Israel is an occupying power in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, the foregoing can also entail a crime of persecution and forced displacement, in breach of the IV Geneva Convention and the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

 

The Coca-Cola Company in Colombia

Testimony: Javier Correa (SINALTRAINAL)

 

Summary: The accused corporation is the US based Coca Cola Company, through its involvement and control of its Mexican subsidiary Coca Cola Femsa which owns the Colombian bottler Industria Nacional de Gaseosas S.A. The parent and subsidiary companies are accused for violations that have occurred in Colombia between 1996 and 2014, including death threats, persecution of workers’ representatives, assistance to military troops in entering the company, arbitrary dismissals and defamatory campaigns, as well as the complicity with military and para-military groups in carrying out arbitrary detentions, illegalization and incendiary destruction of workers’ unions, covering up of environmental contamination and the unsustainable extraction of water. These abuses were previously recognized by the Permanent Peoples Tribunal in 2008, by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its recommendations of 2001(which were never implemented), and by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights in provisional measures dictated to protect 26 workers affiliated to the Sinaltrainal Union. It is therefore alleged that the activities of the accused constitute a breach of the ILO Conventions, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of both the Constitution and the Labour Law of Colombia.

 

Hidralia Energía in Guatemala

Testimony: Micaela Antonio Gonzalez (CEIBA Friends of the Earth Guatemala)

 

Summary: The accused company is the Spanish Hidralia S.A., a transnational corporation specializing in water-cycle management processes – i.e. hydroelectric energy, dams, infrastructure, civil engineering, water supply and sanitation. The accusation against the corporation is based on the activities of Hidro Santa Cruz, which is owned by Hidralia’s subsidiary Ecoener-Hidralia Energía, which itself is dedicated to project development, engineering and consulting. The contested activities were carried out between June 2007 and January 2013, in Santa Cruz Barrillas, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. They include in particular the complicity with the Spanish and Guatemalan governments for their role in the invisibilisation, criminalisation and persecution of the Q’anjob’al people who were legitimately resisting the hydroelectric project. All parties are also complicit in the violent response to this resistance which took the form of, inter alia, intimidation, murder, illegal and arbitrary detentions, land spoiling and dispossession, all in violation of applicable human and peoples’ rights established in international and national law, and in particular in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the International Labour Standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous Peoples, the American Convention on Human Rights, and in the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala.

Also available in: Spanish