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Tuesday, November 30 • 9:00am - 10:15am
Lessons from corporate human rights litigation

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Interpretation in English, French and Spanish will be available

Brief description of the session:
Commentary to Principle 26 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights acknowledges: “Effective judicial mechanisms are at the core of ensuring access to remedy.” Despite continuing barriers to access to remedy for corporate human rights abuses, lawyers, activists and civil society organisations in recent years have successfully pursued cases against corporations in both common law and civil law jurisdictions. What lessons could various stakeholders such as States, corporations, victims, lawyers and civil society organisations (CSOs) learn from these corporate human rights litigation cases? By analysing selected cases from different jurisdictions, this session will try to distil some broad lessons not only for access to remedy and corporate accountability but also for policy makers as well as lawyers and consultants advising corporations. The term “human rights litigation” is used in a broad sense to capture any judicial proceedings aimed at seeking redress for breach of human rights, labour rights and environmental rights.

Key objectives:
The session aims to:
  • Assess positive access to remedy outcomes from corporate human rights litigation in recent years;
  • Showcases innovative strategies and tools used by lawyers to overcome various obstacles to access to remedy;
  • Discuss how human rights litigation against corporations is influencing their behaviour, including in relation to human rights due diligence; and
  • Examine the potential effect of mandatory human rights due diligence laws on litigation against corporations. 

Key questions:
  • Did these cases result in effective remedy (not merely access to remedy) to the victims of corporate human rights abuses? Any advice for lawyers or CSOs contemplating future litigation as to what works and what does not?   
  • How were various procedural, substantive and practical obstacles overcome in these cases? Was the process efficient in terms of cost and time involved?
  • Are confidential settlements problematic for corporate accountability purposes (e.g., private settlement of public wrongs)? If so, how could there be more transparency about remedial outcomes?
  • Will litigation against corporations discourage them from making public disclosure as part of human rights due diligence or otherwise? How will mandatory human rights due diligence laws change this situation?      
  • Any evidence of these cases brining in a systemic change as to how corporations operate and conduct human rights due diligence?

Backgroung documents:

avatar for Surya Deva

Surya Deva

member, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Mr. Surya Deva is a Professor at the Macquarie Law School, University of Macquarie, Sydney. He researches in the areas of business and human rights, India-China constitutional law, international human rights law, and sustainable development. Deva has published extensively in these... Read More →

avatar for Sandra Cossart

Sandra Cossart

Executive Director, Sherpa
Sandra Cossart is an international lawyer and Sherpa’s Executive Director. After starting her career within the EU institutions, she worked as a corporate lawyer and legal consultant in Paris, Russia and England. She joined Sherpa in 2010 and was at the forefront of some important... Read More →
avatar for Humberto Cantú Rivera

Humberto Cantú Rivera

Director, Instituto de Derechos Humanos y Empresas, Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM)
Humberto Cantú Rivera es Profesor titular de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Sociales y Director del Instituto de Derechos Humanos y Empresas de la Universidad de Monterrey. Es Doctor en Derecho por la Universidad de París 2 Panthéon-Assas, dirige la Academia Latinoamericana... Read More →
avatar for Richard Meeran

Richard Meeran

Partner, Head of International Department, Leigh Day
Richard is Head of the International Department at Leigh Day where he has been a partner since 1991. He specialises in multinational litigation in which he has been instrumental for 27 years. His work has transformed English law on the liability of multinationals through the imposition... Read More →
avatar for Keren Adams

Keren Adams

Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre
Keren Adams is a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre where she leads the Centre’s work on business and human rights. Keren has over 15 years’ experience working as a human rights lawyer and advocate in Australia and internationally. Prior to joining the HRLC, she was... Read More →
avatar for Thandeka Kathi

Thandeka Kathi

Attorney, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of Witwatersrand
Thandeka Kathi is an attorney and activist based at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She is also currently completing a Master’s degree in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. Thandeka has played... Read More →

Tuesday November 30, 2021 9:00am - 10:15am CET
Virtual Plenary room