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Business and Human Rights

    May 25, 2015

    Diamonds. Murder. Torture. Broken promises. Important officials. International players. All the elements of a gripping narrative told in a Hollywood blockbuster. Except this isn’t fiction, and the person on trial was the journalist who made sure the world knew the story.

    Rafael Marques de Morais, Angolan journalist and human rights defender, spent the last nearly three years defending his right to tell what happened to the miners and villagers in the Lunda Norte diamond fields region.

    He alleged in a book that seven Angolan generals and two mining companies were complicit in the human rights violations he documented. Those generals and the companies then sued him for criminal defamation, first in Portugal where the book was published and then in Angola.


     

    On May 21st, 2015, Rafael Marques de Morais walked out of court a free man.

    He was facing over 10 years in prison and a fine of $1.2 million US dollars but all charges were dropped.

    May 20, 2015

    Released 00:01 BST Thursday 21 May 2015

    More than a year after Qatar’s government promised limited reforms to improve migrant labour rights, hopes of true progress are fading fast, says Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

    The briefing, Promising little, delivering less: Qatar and migrant labour abuse ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup, features a ‘scorecard’ that rates the authorities’ response to nine fundamental migrant labour rights issues identified by Amnesty International. A year later, only limited progress has been achieved on five of these issues, in four areas the authorities have failed to make any improvements.

    “Qatar is failing migrant workers. Last year the government made plenty of promises to improve migrant labour rights in Qatar, but in practice, there have been no significant advances in the protection of rights,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf migrant rights researcher at Amnesty International.

    May 19, 2015

    Europe looks set to prioritise big business over people suffering under the deadly conflict minerals trade, Amnesty International and Global Witness warn on the eve of a landmark vote designed to tackle the European trade.

    Members of Parliament (MEPs) will vote on inaugural legislation in Strasbourg on Wednesday, which for the first time could legally require European companies to ensure the minerals they buy are not contributing to conflict or human rights abuses in other countries.

    But intense lobbying by big business risks watering down the law into a proposal that would do little to tackle a trade that funds conflict in parts of Africa and elsewhere. If the proposal is not amended, only about 20 raw mineral importers would be legally required to source their materials responsibly. European businesses that sell and make products containing those minerals would only be covered by a voluntary system.

    “This is a historic opportunity to tackle the conflict minerals trade. But the proposal on the table effectively ignores some of the most important players in the industry,” said Lucy Graham of Amnesty International.

    May 08, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada Business and Human Rights Campaigner

    “We have faith that Amnesty International’s campaigning will inform investors in Tahoe Resources about our suffering in Guatemala.” Resident of San Rafael Las Flores

    When Alex Neve and I visited San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa province, the site of Tahoe’s Escobal mine, in September 2014, it was to present the findings of our report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk and seek feedback from local grassroots activists. We hoped that community members, activists, legal experts, investors and governments would find it useful in untangling some of the problems with Guatemala’s mining regulatory framework and outline how the government and companies are failing human rights. It was clear from our research that current mining regulations and corporate practices are stoking conflict in Guatemala, leading to serious human rights violations, and that change is desperately needed. 

    May 08, 2015

    Canadian mining corporation Turquoise Hill Resources (formerly called Ivanhoe Mines) should disclose all transactions related to the divestment of its interest in a mining project in Myanmar, which may have breached Canadian economic sanctions on Myanmar, Amnesty International said ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Vancouver today (8 May).

    Ivanhoe Mines set up a secretive ‘Monywa Trust’ to enable  the company to divest its 50 per cent stake in the controversial Monywa copper mining project in central Myanmar, where abuses have included forced evictions and environmental pollution.

    Information obtained by Amnesty International indicates that the Trust was set up in the British Virgin Islands, which is well known for its secrecy provisions.

    May 06, 2015

    The Peruvian authorities must promptly ensure thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the deaths of two men in the past two weeks amid the policing of anti-mining protests in the south of the country, Amnesty International said.

    In the most recent case, Henry Checlla Chura, 35, was killed early on 5 May when police allegedly opened fire against protesters blocking a highway in the Alto Inclán area of Mollendo. Clashes left scores of protesters and police officers injured.

    His death follows clashes with police in nearby Cocachacra on 22 April which resulted in the fatal shooting of 61-year-old Victoriano Huayna Nina and injuries to 13 others, including two police officers.

    “That two people have now been killed amid the social unrest in southern Peru raises red flags over the policing of these ongoing protests. Their killings must spark prompt, independent and impartial investigations, and any police officer suspected of having committed a crime must be brought to trial,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    April 22, 2015

    Embargoed until: April 22, 2015 at 12:01 a.m. ET (05:01 London time)

    Nearly 80 per cent of U.S. public companies analyzed by human rights groups are failing to adequately check and disclose whether their products contain conflict minerals from Central Africa, a new report by Amnesty International and Global Witness reveals today.

    The report, Digging for Transparency, analyzes 100 conflict minerals reports filed by companies including Apple, Boeing and Tiffany & Co under the 2010 Dodd Frank Act (Section 1502), known as the conflict minerals law. The findings point to alarming gaps in U.S. corporate transparency.

    Under the law, more than one thousand U.S.-listed companies that believe they may source minerals from Central Africa submitted reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2014, the first year they were required to do so. The law is designed to reduce the risk that the purchase of minerals from Central Africa contributes to conflict or human rights abuses.

    March 30, 2015

    South African President Jacob Zuma must urgently make public the findings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry into the violence that that led to the killings of 34 striking miners on 16 August 2012 and the violent deaths of 10 other people in the preceding days, Amnesty International said today.

    The Commission is required to submit its final report and findings to the President on 31 March 2015.

    “The surviving victims of the tragic events of Marikana and the families of all those who died have a right to receive justice and reparations for the harm they have suffered,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    “President Jacob Zuma must make public the full report as a priority. The South African authorities must also ensure full accountability and the re-establishment of lawful and impartial policing as a matter of urgency.

    Amnesty International has followed the work of the Commission of Inquiry closely from its establishment in late 2012, including attending many of its hearings and providing support in collaboration with others to the victims. 

    March 18, 2015

    Released  00:01 GMT Thursday 19 March 2015

    Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian multinational oil giant ENI have admitted more than 550 oil spills in the Niger Delta last year, according to an Amnesty International analysis of the companies’ latest figures. By contrast, on average, there were only 10 spills a year across the whole of Europe between 1971 and 2011.

    Shell reported 204 Niger Delta spills in 2014 while ENI, which operates in a smaller area, reported a staggering 349 spills.

    “These figures are seriously alarming. ENI has clearly lost control over its operations in the Niger Delta. And despite all its promises, Shell has made no progress on tackling oil spills,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Global Issues Director.

    “In any other country, this would be a national emergency.  In Nigeria it appears to be standard operating procedure for the oil industry.  The human cost is horrific – people living with pollution every day of their lives.”

    March 13, 2015

    Inuit hunters and other community members from the Hamlet of Clyde River in Nunavut have challenged a decision by the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) to allow a group of multinational corporations to carry out seismic exploration off Baffin Island.

    “Fundamental human rights protections are at stake in this case,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Canadian and international law both require rigorous precautions to ensure that resource development decisions don’t lead to further marginalization and dispossession of Indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, the regulatory bodies that Canada relies on to uphold the public interest, all too often look at consultation with Indigenous peoples as a mere formality and fail to meet the underlying goal of protecting Indigenous peoples’ human rights.”

    The Hamlet of Clyde River and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization allege that the NEB failed to adequately consider the harmful effects of seismic testing on marine mammals and on Inuit food, economy and culture, and that the decision violated the constitutional rights of the Inuit.

    January 06, 2015

    Released  00.01 GMT 7 January 2015

    Oil giant Shell’s long-overdue compensation pay out to a community devastated by oil spills in the Niger Delta is an important victory for the victims of corporate negligence, said Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development today.

    Six years after two oil spills destroyed thousands of livelihoods in the Bodo area, legal action in the UK has driven Shell to make an out-of-court settlement of £55m to compensate the affected community. The £55m will be split between £35m for 15,600 individuals and £20m for the community.

    “While the pay-out is a long awaited victory for the thousands of people who lost their livelihoods in Bodo, it shouldn’t have taken six years to get anything close to fair compensation,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    December 03, 2014

    A man stands by the water’s edge, proffering a small, sad looking fish. A mud-stained canvas bag full of them hangs from his left shoulder. He tells me he has caught the fish fresh from the pond behind him and it costs just 10 Indian rupees.

    We’re standing in stifling heat on the site of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. On the night of 2 December, 1984, 80,000 pounds (36,300kg) of toxic gas leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal, poisoning more than half a million people. It’s estimated that up to 10,000 died in the first three days as chemicals tore through their internal organs. Many choked to death on their own fluids, while thousands more have been suffering a slow and painful death since.

    The man is fishing from one of Union Carbide’s abandoned evaporation ponds, used between 1970 and 1984 to remove water from hazardous waste. After the disaster, the plant was abandoned and never cleaned up. The hazardous chemical waste remains. The fish this man will take home to feed his family have been swimming, eating and breeding in it.

    November 30, 2014

    Embargoed until 0001 IST 1 December (1831 GMT 30 November)

    New poll results published today show clear public support, in both India and the USA, for US corporation Union Carbide to face an Indian court over the Bhopal gas leak disaster which left more than 20,000 people dead and poisoned more than half a million in 1984.

    Marking the 30th anniversary of the disaster, the poll, carried out by YouGov for Amnesty International, finds that a massive 82 per cent of Indians surveyed want to see Union Carbide attend the Indian courts about its role in the gas leak at the Bhopal plant. While fewer US respondents expressed a view, of those who did, almost two thirds (62%) agreed with that call.

    The corporation has consistently refused to answer charges of culpable homicide in the Indian courts.

    “This poll shows that the verdict in the court of public opinion is clear. Justice has not been delivered for Bhopal, and people will not stand for it,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, speaking from Bhopal after a visit to the site of the leak.

    November 27, 2014

    Two years after police used incendiary weapons against monks and villagers protesting a mining project in central Myanmar, no one has been held accountable, Amnesty International said ahead of the anniversary of the attack. 

    The organization also highlights ongoing problems with the way the Letpadaung mine is being developed and the risk of further abuses. Construction is proceeding without resolving ongoing environmental and human rights concerns. Thousands of farmers remain under the threat of forced evictions since their lands were acquired for the mine in a flawed process characterized by misinformation.

    On 29 November 2012, police used white phosphorous munitions in their attack on a peaceful protest against the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Region, injuring at least 99 monks and nine other protesters. Many suffered extremely painful burns and some have been left with lifelong injuries and scarring.

    November 26, 2014

    When we meet Shahzadi Bi in September, she is busy chaining herself to a fence. It’s not just any fence, but the one that surrounds the Chief Minister’s residence in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where Bhopal is the capital. She is among a group of protesters demanding that the minister keep his promise of providing each survivor of the 1984 gas leak – the more than 570,000 who were exposed – 500,000 Indian rupees (US$8,170) as compensation.

    Shahzadi, aged 60, lives in Blue Moon Colony, one of the 22 slums that surround the old pesticide factory formerly owned by Union Carbide India Limited. This area is blighted by water contamination, caused by chemicals from the abandoned factory site.

    The disaster overturned her and her family’s lives. “Everyone has dreams,” she says. “I too had those. My dream was not about becoming a teacher or doctor… I wished that we would provide a good education to our children… but the gas leak shattered all these dreams.”

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