A legal ruling in Canada this week that featured Amnesty International Canada as an official intervenor offered a new path for victims of human rights abuses to seek redress against corporations where they are headquartered, even if the acts in question were both committed by a subsidiary of a corporation and took place in another country.
The Globe and Mail article, “After HudBay ruling, Canadian firms on notice over human rights,” points to the potential impact the ruling could have on corporate earnings and responsibilities of directors and investors.
Despite the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals claiming no responsibility for their subsidiary, Ontario Superior Court ruled on July 22nd that claims against the company’s security personnel for gang rapes and murder of an indigenous leader critical of mining practices in Guatemala can proceed to trial.
The article notes that:
“For years, activist lawyers and legal academics have searched for a way in which to hold corporations who have a head office in one country, but who operate in other countries, often through subsidiaries, accountable for illegal acts in the host nation.”
Amnesty International Canada made submissions in the case with respect to international law, norms, and codes that argued this very point. This highlights the important role Amnesty International plays in holding corporations accountable for abuses of human rights.
Claims in the case against the mining company HudBay have yet to be proved. In addition, the decision may well be appealed or overturned as the ruling was procedural. However, the fact that this is another step toward victims of human rights abuses being able to pursue their day in court. That makes this case notable in the struggle for corporate accountability.
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Jonathan Cohen and Chip Pitts, members of the Business and Human Rights Group of Amnesty International USA, largely researched and contributed to this article.