The latest Quarterly Report from the Business & Human Rights Resources Centre is out. These periodic BHRRC reports, together with BHRRC’s weekly newsletters, are the best and most comprehensive resources available on corporate accountability / business and human rights lawsuits and other developments. The latest reports summary of developments with lawsuits in national jurisdictions is as follows (for links to more information on each, see the Report itself). I hope to be able to provide further comment on some of these cases shortly.
Lawsuit against African Barrick Gold (re Tanzania): In December 2013, a UK High Court
upheld an injunction barring the defendants from initiating legal action in Tanzania on matters
being litigated before the UK court.
Apartheid reparations lawsuits (re So. Africa): In December 2013, a U.S. judge said Daimler
and Rheinmetall could not be sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act because the plaintiffs
failed to show a sufficient connection between those companies and the United States. The
court declined to dismiss the claims against IBM and Ford.
Lawsuit against BHP (re Papua New Guinea): In January 2014, Papua New Guinea’s National
Court ordered Ok Tedi Mining to stop dumping mine waste and tailings into a nearby river,
risking the shutting of the mine. The court ordered that company bank accounts be frozen
after allegations that money earmarked for local development had been misused.
Lawsuits against Cisco Systems (re China): In February 2014, the judge in the lawsuit in USA
by three jailed Chinese writers dismissed the case on the basis of lack of jurisdiction under the
Alien Tort Claims Act. The court also ruled that although Cisco had designed the technology
known as the Golden Shield Project, it could not be found responsible for abuses that were
carried out using it.
Lawsuit against Daimler (re alleged complicity in abuses during “Dirty War” in Argentina): On
14 January 2014, the US Supreme Court ruled that Daimler did not have enough ties with
California for courts in that state to hear the case.
Lawsuit against KBR (re human trafficking in Iraq): In January 2014, a US District judge
reversed a previous ruling and held that the families of Nepali labourers, who were executed in
Iraq in 2004, could not pursue trafficking claims against KBR under the Trafficking Victims
Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) because at the time when the plaintiffs were allegedly
trafficked, the TVPRA did not apply outside the United States. (It has since been amended to
Lawsuit against Nestlé, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland (re child labour in Côte d’Ivoire): In
December 2013, a US federal appeals court overturned a 2010 ruling and held that plaintiffs
can re-file their forced child labour lawsuit against the companies under the Alien Tort Claims
Lawsuit against Pfizer (re children’s informed consent for clinical trials in Nigeria): In November
2013, 186 victims filed a new lawsuit in Federal High Court in Nigeria claiming Pfizer breached
the 2009 settlement agreement by limiting the criteria for compensation and unjustly excluding
victims of its drug trials.
Lawsuits against Texaco/Chevron (re oil pollution in Ecuador): In December 2013, Chevron
appealed to Ecuador’s highest court, asking it to cancel the $9.5 billion fine upheld by the
National Court of Justice. Also in December, an Ontario, Canada, appeals court ruled that a
group of Ecuadorians can seek enforcement of the judgment against Chevron in Canada,
overturning a lower court decision. In February 2014, a US court blocked the enforcement of
the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron in the US.
Lawsuit against Thomson Safaris (re land rights of Maasai in Tanzania): On 26 February
2014, people from three Maasai villages filed an action in US court against Thomson Safaris
and its owners. The plaintiffs seek to compel the defendants to provide information on the
alleged illegal confiscation of Maasai land by Thomson Safaris and its affiliates.
Lawsuit against Union Carbide/Dow (re Bhopal): In February 2014, plaintiffs presented new
evidence in the Sahu II case in US court, which they argue shows the company’s direct role in
designing and building the pesticide plant, and that this design is causing on-going toxic waste
problems in Bhopal. The company denies responsibility.
US Deepwater Horizon explosion & oil spill lawsuits: In January 2014, a US Circuit Court of
Appeals upheld a lower court decision and approved a multibillion-dollar settlement with BP of
private claims. The judges dismissed an argument by BP that the settlement agreement
should not be approved because some of the claimants cannot link losses directly to oil
disaster. Also, a former manager of Halliburton was sentenced to a year’s probation for
destroying evidence in the inquiry into the oil spill. Separately, Halliburton pleaded guilty to
the unauthorised deletion of data.
Lawsuit against Vedanta Resources (re Dongria Kondh in Orissa, India): In January 2014, the
Indian Ministry for Environment and Forests rejected Vedanta’s request to mine bauxite in the
Niyamgiri hill range, ruling that it would negatively impact the rights of the Dongria Kondh tribal