One Year After Factory Disaster, What Have We Learned?

The Rana Plaza catastrophe on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on April 24, 2013, that left 1,138 dead and more than 2,000 injured (Photo Credit: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images).

The Rana Plaza catastrophe on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on April 24, 2013, that left 1,138 dead and more than 2,000 injured (Photo Credit: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images).

Today is the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building in Bangladesh, which left more than 1,100 workers dead and many more injured.  The disaster has become the most shocking recent example of business-related human rights abuse, and the images of dead workers in the debris of the collapsed factory have become powerful symbols of the pursuit of profit at the expense of people.

The Rana Plaza building housed numerous garment factories supplying international clothing companies. Over the past year, there have been various initiatives to provide compensation to the victims, involving government, global brands, and the International Labor Organization (ILO). However, these efforts have so far proved insufficient, and survivors continue to suffer and struggle to support themselves and their families.

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How Nigerians Are Fighting Back Against Oil Companies

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By Joe Westby, Amnesty International Corporate Campaigner and Onyekachi Okoro, Media for Justice Program, Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)

“People are dying silently. The oil companies bring sickness to our communities,” a man from a polluted community in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state told us.

But when it comes to oil spills in the Niger Delta, it’s not what you’ve suffered or what you know; it’s what you can prove.

This simple fact has hampered communities from obtaining justice, even when their lives have been turned upside down by pollution. Because the oil companies have significant control over determining vital data about oil spills, the affected communities lack reliable and impartial information, meaning they can’t effectively tell their side of the story.

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Hudbay Minerals Loses Ruling Over Subsidiary’s Human Rights Violations

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

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.

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Demanding Justice: How An Indian Court Took on a U.S. Chemical Giant – And Won

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

The survivors of 1984′s Bhopal gas disaster have won a significant step toward justice.

An Indian court ruled this week that Dow Chemical must explain why its wholly owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the Bhopal disaster. Union Carbide is accused of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” for over 20,000 deaths.

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What Does Your Cell Phone Have to Do with Armed Conflict?

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s long war, which has claimed an estimated three million lives as a result of fighting or disease and malnutrition, was fuelled by the regions vast mineral wealth (Photo Credit: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images).

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s long war, which has claimed an estimated three million lives as a result of fighting or disease and malnutrition, was fueled by the regions vast mineral wealth (Photo Credit: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images).

You know that phone you’re texting on? Do you know how its microchips are made?

Thanks to work by Amnesty International and partner organizations, companies that rely on certain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring countries now have to investigate and report on whether those minerals fund armed groups.

And it’s about more than just smartphones – conflict minerals” (tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold) are used in products like your laptop and even your car. Public disclosure of companies’ sourcing practices can have a real impact on entire industries, pushing companies to take human rights into account as they do business. Can you hear me now?

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Will U.S. Give Survivors Their Day In Court?

 Esther Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum

Members of the Ogoni community outside of the Supreme Court, February 28, 2012. Esther Kiobel, center. (Photo by Erica Razook)

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., a corporate accountability case that could have far-reaching implications for future efforts by survivors of human rights abuses committed in other countries to sue those responsible in U.S courts.  The case is close to my heart, but its outcome is one that all human rights activists should be invested in.

Earlier this week, in the course of sorting through years of accumulated documents in preparation for our impending office move, I found the four overstuffed binders I created over a decade ago while researching cases for Amnesty’s 2002 report, United States of America: A Safe Haven for Torturers.  The report examined the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill its obligation to investigate and prosecute individuals found in the U.S. who are accused of torture committed in other countries, and to ensure that survivors can obtain reparation in U.S. courts.

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New Evidence Reveals Shell Wildly Underreported Niger Delta Oil Spill

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know about the devastation oil spills has brought communities in the Niger Delta and Shell Oil’s continuing resistance to take full responsibility.

Now, new data obtained by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) bring shocking new facts to light.  Shell dramatically under-estimated the damage of a 2008 spill that resulted in tens of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the land and creek surrounding Bodo, a Niger Delta town of some 69,000 people.

The spills, that gushed for weeks before being stopped, have devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people, destroying livelihoods, undermining access to food and clean water and putting health at risk.

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