Pollution, brain tumors, children . . . and national security

Ionizing radiation symbol“If Al Qaeda sent a team of sleeper cells to poison our groundwater and release toxic materials into the air, people would go nuts. It would be an act of war,” Dycus notes.

“But if we do it to ourselves in the name of national security, in preparation for war, that seems to be sort of OK.”  

– My Vermont Law School colleague Steve Dycus, quoted in The Nation’s detailed story about lawsuits accusing defense contractor Pratt & Whitney of causing a brain cancer cluster among children in Florida by contaminating the area’s soil and water:
The Brain Cancer Rate for Girls in This Town Shot Up 550%—Is a Defense Contractor to Blame?

Dycus is lead author of National Security Law (Wolters Kluwer) and Counterterrorism Law (Wolters Kluwer), and author of National Defense and the Environment (Univ. Press of New England).

Call for Participants — Symposium on Corporate Social Responsibility in Emerging Markets

The University of South Carolina’s Journal of International Law and Business has issued a call for participants for a symposium entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility in Emerging Markets.”  Interested scholars and practitioners are welcome to submit statements of interest and CVs no later than October 1, 2014:​

The staff of the South Carolina Journal of International Law and Business (SCJILB) invites you to participate in its Spring 2015 symposium entitled Corporate Social Responsibility in Emerging Markets, to be held February 5-6, 2015. SCJILB seeks to explore the role of corporations in protecting the rights of people affected by their activities in emerging markets and to propose solutions to issues that arise when corporate and local interests intersect. The Symposium aims to facilitate scholarly discussion regarding current trends and issues in corporate social responsibility (CSR) from a variety of perspectives.

To accompany the Symposium, SCJILB will publish a dedicated issue covering, but not limited to, the role of collective bargaining in CSR, a comparison of approaches to CSR from experts in various industries such as textiles, electronics, and extractive industries, and the applicability of domestic methods of bottom-up CSR to international markets. SCJILB offers a full range of editorial services and will work with authors who seek publication.

The Symposium will feature the presentation of 3-4 traditional symposium-length papers which will be critiqued in short-form essays by two other participants as part of a panel. SCJILB seeks participants willing to present and publish these short form critical essays. To be considered for publication, please submit: (1) a statement of interest of no more than 750 words describing your background and research interest in CSR topics and (2) a curriculum vitae (CV). SCJILB will compensate attendees for travel to and lodging in Columbia, SC. Please submit all materials to William Buschur, Symposium Editor, at buschurw@email.sc.edu no later than October 1, 2014.

The SCJILB staff will notify authors of their selection for publication on or before October 31, 2014.

Questions should be directed to William Buschur, Symposium Editor, at buschurw@email.sc.edu.

About SCJILB: The South Carolina Journal of International Law and Business is a student-run, faculty-regulated law journal published biannually by the students of The University of South Carolina School of Law.

Go On! Tilburg University Business and Human Rights Summer School registration extended to May 1

163/365: Tilburg

Tilburg (Credit: Elger van der Wel/Flickr)


Registration for the Tilburg University Summer School in Business and Human Rights has been extended to May 1.

This summer course introduces participants to the linkages between business and human rights from a variety of (legal, regulatory, and policy) perspectives. The content and implementation of the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights take a center stage. Participants become familiar with the main actors in business and human rights, and their respective duties and responsibilities.

  • Course period: 14 July – 18 July
  • Study credits: 3 ECTS
  • Max participants: 40 participants
  • Course leaders: Nicola Jägers & Daniel Augenstein
  • Target group: Advanced graduate, post-graduate, and doctoral students from law, social & political sciences and cognate disciplines with a  working knowledge in human rights law. Representatives of the public service, business organizations and NGOs with an interest in business and human rights issues.

For more information, and to register, visit http://www.tilburguniversity.edu/education/summerschool/courses/business-and-human-rights/.

Call for Papers: “Human Rights under Pressure: Exploring Norms, Institutions and Policies”

The Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) calls for the submission of proposals for papers to be presented at the AHRI Human Rights Conference to be held in Copenhagen on 29-30 September 2014:“Human Rights under Pressure: Exploring norms, institutions and policies”

Over the past 20 years the human rights agenda has advanced at a pace few could have imagined. Political, economic, social, and legal developments have each helped bolster protection and secure accountability for human rights abuses. Across thematic areas, both state and non-state actors have increasingly referenced human rights and the ‘rule of law’, and human rights have come to feature more prominently in international relations and public discourse.

We have witnessed the emergence of new norms and institutions to advance human rights protection, and several existing adjudicatory and supervisory mechanisms have been expanded and strengthened. Human rights scholarship has developed in significant ways, crafting stronger links across disciplines and methodologies.

Amidst these developments, however, the human rights project has been marred by a sense of impending crisis. Wide-scale human rights violations have remained high in many parts of the world. Even in traditional frontrunner countries, human rights norms have caved to politics on thorny issues such as immigration, the fight against terrorism, minority protection, and economic policy. The reach of human rights has also been challenged by new policies and shifting patterns of governance in our current age of globalisation. Growing inequality at the domestic and international levels, extrajudicial killings, digital mass surveillance, private military contractors and global law enforcement each challenge the traditional picture of state sovereignty and each raise hard questions as to the scope and division of human rights obligations.

At the institutional level, human rights have also come under pressure. Strong criticism has been raised against various international human rights bodies for being inefficient, politicised or both with governments having actively sought to reign in interpretative and adjudicatory power, while other international organisations often just turn a blind eye to them.

While these narratives seem to point in different directions and are usually treated as separate phenomena, this conference aims to explore the interplay in a world where human rights are equally celebrated and contested.

It invites scholars from across academic disciplines and thematic areas to reflect critically on the current dynamics in the field of human rights and to explore the various methodological and theoretical challenges in international human rights research today. Papers and panels exploring any of the above mentioned themes are welcome. Preference will be given to strong proposals that fall within one of the following five tracks, under which several panels will be organized:

1. International Institutions and their Discontents:

This track invites critical engagement with the work of international institutions and their impact on human rights. This may include traditional human rights bodies and courts, regional and international organisations and forums as well as other institutions, formal or informal, that have relevance for human rights. Submissions might address institutional architecture, reform, or normative developments through their legal or political bodies.

2. Development and Human Rights:

This track explores the relationship between development and human rights to lay bare both synergies and contestations, papers may for example focus on the role of new actors in developing countries, the role of human rights in humanitarian conflicts, human rights and international investments, and human rights and corporate social responsibility.

3. The European Union and Human Rights:

The EU has pledged to include human rights as a silver thread running through all its policies. This track will seek to survey various EU policies to assess whether the EU is delivering on its pledge in terms of coherence, consistency,effectiveness and legitimacy.

4. Human Rights and the “Other”:

This track addresses the theoretical and practical responses to the clashes between cultural and constitutional pluralism and their consequences for the human rights protection of those perceived as “Other”, based on their ethnic origin,religion, gender, sexual orientation or foreignness etc.

5. Methods and Theories of Human Rights:

This track invites papers to explore methodological issues in human rights research and interpretation. It examines theoretical developments in human rights scholarship and the cross-fertilisation of approaches and concepts across disciplines. Multi-disciplinary papers are particularly welcome.

Practical Information

The 2014 AHRI conference is co-hosted by the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, and will take place on 29-30 September 2014 at the University of Copenhagen.

The conference is open to both AHRI and non-AHRI members and aims to bring together both junior and senior academics to present the most recent human rights research in the humanities, law, social sciences and other disciplines.

Travel and accommodation costs are expected to be covered by the participants themselves.

Individual bursaries may be available for particular panels upon request. A registration fee of

70 EUR will cover amenities and lunches during both days of the conference.

Submission of Abstracts and Panel Proposals

Interested participants should submit:

1. title of paper,

2. an indication of the track to which the paper belongs,

3. an abstract of no more than 500 words,

4. author name, affiliation and biographical details,

5. contact details.

Papers can be presented on any topic related to human rights and should be unpublished. Interdisciplinary projects and jointly authored papers are welcomed. Proposals for entire panels (up to four papers) are equally welcome, indicating the title, abstract and author of each paper as well as proposed chairs and discussants.

Deadline for submission of abstracts and panel proposals is 1 May 2014. Submissions should be sent to ekni@humanrights.dk. All abstracts will be reviewed by the AHRI Programme Committee and selections announced by 1 June 2014. Formal registration for the conference will be possible from 1 June.

Contact information:

For practical questions about the conference please contact Eva Krogsgård Nielsen, ekni@ humanrights.dk

 For questions relating to AHRI, including admission of new members, please contact Eva Maria Lassen, eva@humanrights.dk.

For questions related to the submission of papers and the overall conference programme, please contact Steven L. B. Jensen, sje@humanrights.dk.

Members of the AHRI Conference Programme Committee

Margot Salomon (coordinator of Track 1); Morten Broberg (coordinator of Track 2); Jan Wouters (coordinator of Track 3); Aleksandra Gliszczynska-Grabias (coordinator of Track 4); and Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen (coordinator of Track 5).

On behalf of the AHRI Conference Programme Committee,

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen,

 AHRI Executive Chairman

The Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) is comprised of 49 academic institutes with a mandate to advance research, education and discussion in the field of human rights.

In transnational human rights suit, Supreme Court shortens long arm of states

2justicesEight Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court today cut short an effort to use a state long-arm statute to hold a multinational corporation accountable for human rights abuses.

The judgment in Daimler AG v. Bauman thus freed the defendant, a corporation whose subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz USA, “is the largest supplier of luxury vehicles to the California market,” from a 2004 lawsuit brought by 22 Argentinians. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (at right in photo) explained in her opinion for the Court,  plaintiffs alleged that Mercedes’ Argentina subsidiary had

collaborated with Argentinian state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill plaintiffs and their relatives during the military dictatorship in place there from 1976 through 1982, a period known as Argentina’s “Dirty War.”

The multi-count suit was on shaky footing even before the Court heard argument last October. The Court’s application of a presumption against extraterritorial jurisdiction in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (2013) impaired counts based on the Alien Tort Statute; similarly, the Court’s ruling in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority (2012) that only human beings may be held liable under the Torture Victim Protection Act gutted counts based on that statute. Left were counts that looked to California’s long-arm statute, which permits a court to exercise personal jurisdiction provided that the state and federal constitutions so permit. It was this proviso that ended the case: Ginsburg wrote at footnote 20 that whether a court enjoyed general jurisdiction over a corporate defendant depended not only

‘on the magnitude of the defendant’s in-state contacts,’

but also on

a corporation’s activities in their entirety, nationwide and worldwide.

Applying this reasoning, the Court concluded that the named defendant lacked sufficient contacts with California, so that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbade the exercise of “general” or “all-purpose” jurisdiction.

Ginsburg’s opinion for the Court further placed the holding within “the transnational context”: quoting a 2001 article by Friedrich K. Juenger (a since-departed and much-missed Cal-Davis colleague of mine), Ginsburg wrote that the Court’s withholding of jurisdiction jibed with practice in the European Union, and thus avoided “risks to international comity.”

The Court’s reasoning drew sharp criticism from Justice Sonia Sotomayor (above left). In a separate opinion sure to provoke much discussion among civil procedure profs, Sotomayor complained that

the Court decides this case on a ground that was neither argued nor passed on below,

and in so doing

unduly curtails the States’ sovereign authority to adjudicate disputes against corporate defendants who have engaged in continuous and substantial business operations within their boundaries,

with the result of

shift[ing] the risk of loss from multinational corporates to the individuals harmed by their actions.

Notwithstanding her stated concern for the interests of individuals, even Sotomayor ruled against the plaintiffs in this case. She advanced a “far simpler ground,” which bore echo with the Court’s 2013 decision in Kiobel: “exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable given that the case involves foreign plaintiffs suing a foreign defendant based on foreign conduct,” she wrote, adding, in an apparent reference to the courts of Argentina, “that a more appropriate forum is available.”

Sotomayor’s concurrence in the judgment thus underscores the Court’s current reluctance to provide a human rights accountability forum like that sought by these plaintiffs.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Sustainable Companies Project Conference: Business as Usual is Not an Option

I had the honour of attending the inspiring Sustainable Companies Project Conference in Oslo, Norway. This event was organized by Professor Beate Sjåfjell, of the University of Oslo. You can watch the presentations and debates which challenge us to imagine a new consciousness in which “business as usual is not an option” and committment is made towards realizing sustainable development here.

The aim of the Sustainable Companies Project (2010-2013) was to contribute to integrating environmental concerns better into the decision-making in companies, as one of the important jigsaw puzzles of sustainability. In an innovative approach, this project has had company law as its core, based on the hypothesis, which has been confirmed through our research, that environmental sustainability in the operation of companies cannot be effectively achieved unless the objective is properly integrated into company law and thereby into the internal workings of the company. At this conference, the results of the Sustainable Companies Project were presented by SC team members from around the world. The main topics of the conference included:

Sustainable Companies: The Identified Barriers and Possibilities

A brief presentation of the identified barriers and possibilities in core company law, in the regulation of groups, in accounting law and in financial market law.

Companies and Corporate Governance

A presentation of reform proposals on EU, US and national levels of core company law, notably on the purpose of the company, the role, competences and the duties of the company organs, and the regulation of groups. Topics include the duties of the board of directors, the interests of the company, employee involvement, life cycle analysis, risk management, due diligence and liability. Research on alternative corporate structures was also presented.

Companies and Reporting

A presentation of reform proposals on reporting, accounting, auditing and transparency, including a discussion of what integrated reporting can be and a discussion of the latest innovations in international and national guidelines and codes.

Shareholders and Financial Markets

A presentation of reform proposals on the role of shareholders and the regulation of financial markets. Topics included the role of state as shareholder and of sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors in general.

Supportive Measures

A presentation of reform proposals in areas such as insolvency law and public procurement law, which may support and encourage environmental sustainability in company decision-making.

Speakers included:

Professor Andrew Johnston (Sheffield, UK), Associate Professor Jianbo Lou (Peking, China), Professor Charlotte Villiers (Bristol, UK), Professor Celia Taylor (Denver, USA), Associate Professor Tineke Lambooy (Utrecht, The Netherlands), Associate Professor Surya Deva (Hong Kong, China), Associate Professor Lorraine Talbot (Warwick, UK), Idoya Ferrero Ferrero ( Spain), Professor Karsten Engsig Sørensen (Aarhus, Denmark), Dr. Priscilla Schwartz (London, UK), PhD student Carol Liao (Vancouver, Canada) and Professor Beate Sjåfjell (Oslo).

Write On! Call for Papers Utrecht Journal of International and European Law

Utrecht Journal of International and European Law, formerly Merkourios, is issuing a call for papers in relation to its forthcoming 78th edition on ‘Legal Aspects of Corporate Social Responsibility’.

It is a well-attested fact that there is a lack of legal accountability for multinational corporations both at an international and national level. Various different means have been utilised in an attempt to fill this gap in corporate governance. This topic has provoked increasing levels of discussion with varying perspectives as to the correct path with which to move forward.

The Board of Editors invites you to submit papers addressing any legal issues relating to corporate social responsibility from an international or European law perspective.

This edition is primarily concerned with corporate social responsibility but relevant issues may also have broader implications, including: the growing overlap of different spheres of international law; the right to development; the conflict between universalism and particularism; the relationship between developing and developed countries; long-standing principles of international law such as non-intervention in internal affairs and the state centric nature of international law as a whole and the rejection of human rights law norms for multinationals in favour of voluntary initiatives.

All types of manuscripts, from socio-legal to legal-technical to comparative will be considered.

The submissions deadline for our upcoming issue on ‘Legal Aspects of Corporate Social Responsibility’ is 14 November 2013 Email: utrechtjournal@urios.org

The Board of Editors will select articles based on quality of research and writing, diversity and relevance of topic. Utrecht Journal holds a word limit of 15000 words, including footnotes. Authors may be graduate students, post-graduates, legal academics or practitioners.

Utrecht Journal is the student-led, peer-reviewed biannual law journal of Urios, the Utrecht Association for International and European Law. The Journal was founded in 1981 as Merkourios. This year, the Board of Editors decided to change it to its current name. In the years since 1981, Utrecht Journal has expanded its readership and is now distributed all over the world through databases such as HeinOnline and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Criminal complaint filed over German-Swiss corporate human rights abuses in Congo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn 25 April 2013, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), in co-operation with the British human rights organization Global Witness, filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor’s office of Tübingen in southern Germany against a senior employee of the German-Swiss timber trading company Danzer Group. The individual in question, a German citizen, is suspected of breaching his duties by failing to prevent crimes committed by Congolese security forces. There is sufficient initial suspicion that through omission the employee was complicit in rape, inflicting bodily harm, false imprisonment and arson. The public prosecutor’s office of Tübingen is now obliged to further investigate the circumstances of the case and establish whether the Danzer employee is criminally liable.

During the early morning hours of 2 May 2011, a task force of local security forces attacked the village of Bongulu (Équateur province) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). The forces submitted inhabitants of the village to abuse, rape and arbitrary arrests. During the attack, the task force used vehicles belonging to the company Siforco, a subsidiary of the Danzer group. In addition to providing vehicles and drivers, the company also paid the members of the task force for their involvement in the operation.

This incident follows a dispute between the village inhabitants and Siforco, which is based in the area, resulting from the failure of the company to abide by its contractual obligations to provide for social projects in the region.

This incident provides a typical example of the risk for companies operating in weak governance zones of becoming involved in or encouraging the violent activity of local security forces. Almost every day reports of sexual violence committed by state and non-state actors are carried by the media. Women and girls are raped or sexually abused during the course of most military and police operations. As such, the commission of sexual crimes cannot be seen simply as excessive acts of individual soldiers or police officers, but must be looked at in the broader context of the situation in the DR Congo. The European parent companies of firms operating in such environments must adapt their risk management strategy accordingly and must ensure that they are neither directly nor indirectly involved in human rights violations. In these cases organizational safeguards must be subjected to higher standards, which can be derived from existing international standards.

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