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Business and Human Rights

    January 06, 2014

    US corporate interests must not be allowed to invalidate the Conflict Minerals Rule, which requires companies to investigate and disclose whether their products contain certain minerals that help fund armed groups in mineral-rich countries in Africa, said Amnesty International today.

    The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear a challenge by three industry groups against the rule on Tuesday. Amnesty International joined the lawsuit to support the rule.

    “This legal challenge to the Conflict Minerals Rule is nothing but a crass effort by industry groups to put profits ahead of principles,” said Steven Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

    “The rule was required by Congress to save lives and stop human rights abuses by curbing the flow of funding to armed groups operating with impunity in the areas these minerals are mined – in Democratic Republic of the Congo and other central African countries.”

    The Conflict Minerals Rule was required by the US Congress in 2010 as part of a raft of measures to reform business practices after the 2008 economic downturn.

    November 07, 2013

    Shell has manipulated oil spill investigations in Nigeria, with the company’s claims on oil pollution in the region deeply suspect and often untrue, said Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD).
     

    A new report published today uncovers specific cases in which Shell has wrongly reported the cause of oil spills, the volume of oil spilt, or the extent and adequacy of clean up measures.

    “Shell is being disingenuous about the devastation caused by its Niger Delta operations. This new evidence shows that Shell’s claims about the oil spills cannot be trusted,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    New analysis from an independent expert found that so-called official investigation reports into the cause of oil spills in the Niger Delta can be “very subjective, misleading and downright false.”

    The report highlights systemic weaknesses in the way the cause of a spill and the volume are determined – with some significant errors in the volumes that are recorded as spilt.

    November 04, 2013
    by Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Photo:  Tsilhqot'in healer Cecil Grinder

    A proposed gold-copper mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the rights of the Tsilhqot’in people of central British Columbia.

    This is the conclusion of an independent federal panel that examined the potential impact of the proposed “New Prosperity” mine. The environmental impact assessment also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands.

    Under federal environmental legislation, the actual decision about whether the project should go ahead is in the hands of cabinet. The federal government is under considerable pressure to approve the proposed “New Prosperity” mine because of the promised economic benefits to the region.

    The Tsilhqot’in people, however, have been clear that the mine is unacceptable to them.

    September 24, 2013

    By Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Thematic Issues at Amnesty International

    There are currently two competing narratives about oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

    The first is that oil companies, particularly Shell, are responsible for massive pollution caused by leaks from their operations and for the failure to clean up spills and protect their infrastructure from damage.

    This narrative acknowledges that oil theft and sabotage of oil infrastructure occur and contribute to pollution; however it cautions that theft and sabotage, as causes of pollution, are over-stated by oil companies in a bid to deflect criticism about their environmental impact.

    The second narrative claims that almost all spills are caused by oil theft and sabotage and that companies are doing their best to combat this scourge. It goes on to say that the failure to clean up properly is generally due to the communities not letting the oil companies into the area to do the cleanup.

    July 23, 2013

    US chemical giant The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) must acknowledge its responsibility towards survivors of the devastating Bhopal industrial disaster, Amnesty International said after the company was summoned to appear before a court in Bhopal, India.

    The company has been ordered to explain why its wholly-owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the 1984 Bhopal disaster, where UCC is accused of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”.

    “Today’s court decision is an important step in ensuring corporate accountability for the devastating consequences of the Bhopal gas leak,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    “Dow has always tried to claim it has nothing to do with UCC’s liability for Bhopal, but the court has today made it clear that Dow itself has a responsibility to ensure that UCC faces the outstanding charges against it. Dow can no longer turn its back on the tens of thousands still suffering in Bhopal.”

    July 12, 2013

    Authorities in the Indian state of Odisha (previously Orissa) are excluding Adivasi (indigenous) communities from the process to decide the future of a proposed mining project that could have disastrous effects on their livelihood and traditional lands, Amnesty International said.

    The controversial mining plans – a joint venture between Sterlite India, a subsidiary of the UK-based mining giant Vedanta Resources, and the Odisha Mining Corporation – would affect the traditional lands of Adivasi communities in the Niyamgiri hills region, which they depend on for food, water and their way of life.

    A decision-making process on the project facilitated by the Odisha authorities, which starts next week, would exclude many villages, with only 12 of the 100-odd villages in the region included – an approach that fails to comply with a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the issue, and a subsequent communiqué from India’s central Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

    June 26, 2013

    A major fire that forced Shell to close its Trans Niger Pipeline in southern Nigeria raises serious questions about the way the oil giant is operating, Amnesty International and the Nigerian National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills (NACGOND) said.

    The organizations called for an independent inquiry into the events that led to the fire at Bodo in Rivers State – an area already devastated by years of oil pollution.

    Eight Shell contractors were arrested by Nigerian security services in connection with the fire that broke out last week (19 June), following an oil spill at a section of the pipeline near Bodo that was being repaired by Shell contractors.

    A Shell-led investigation into the cause of the fire is due to begin this week.

    Shell claims the fire was a consequence of oil theft. However, community members told NACGOND that in the days leading up to the fire Nigerian security forces prevented anyone other than Shell’s contractors going near the area of the spill. From the shore people saw barges being loaded with oil and taken away from the site.

    June 19, 2013

    Chinese mining companies operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) need to do more to prevent their operations from leading to human rights abuses, Amnesty International warned today in a new report.

    Profits and Loss: Mining and human rights in Katanga, examines the impact of the mining industry in south-eastern DRC. 

    The report documents a number of serious abuses involving local and foreign companies including forced evictions – illegal under international law – and dangerous and exploitative working conditions.

    The report pays particular attention to the role of Chinese companies, which are on course to become the most influential and powerful foreign economic actors in the extractive sector in the DRC – a country with some of the world’s most important mineral reserves.

    China also imports significant amounts of cobalt and copper from the DRC, much of which continues to be extracted by small-scale miners – also known as artisanal miners – using handheld tools, and often working in terrible conditions.

    June 19, 2013

    AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS – Claims by Shell that sabotage is responsible for most oil spilt in Nigeria have come under fire. A Dutch agency found that the oil giant’s statements were based on disputed evidence and flawed investigations.

    The agency – the National Contact Point (NCP) – which is there to assess complaints about companies that abuse human rights and the environment made its statements in response to concerns raised by Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth International.

    But the two organizations say that the NCP should have gone much further in its criticism of Shell.

    The organizations provided evidence of serious flaws in the system used by Shell for investigating oil spills, including video footage of a spill investigation in which several serious problems occurred.

    “Sabotage is a problem in Nigeria, but Shell exaggerates this issue to avoid criticism for its failure to prevent oil spills,” said Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International.

    June 13, 2013

    Ottawa, June 13, 2013 –  Canadian civil society organizations that have worked together for the adoption of mandatory corporate accountability measures for almost a decade, join together to welcome Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement in London yesterday that Canada will be establishing new mandatory reporting standards for Canadian extractive companies.

    This is the first time the Prime Minister has voiced support for mandatory reporting in Canada on the international operations of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies. Amnesty International, Halifax Initiative, InterPares, KAIROS Canada, MiningWatch Canada and the United Steelworkers are encouraged by this step forward.

    “This is welcome news,” said Fiona Koza, Business and Human Rights Campaigner with Amnesty International. “For years we have been urging the Government of Canada to move beyond mere voluntary measures.”

    April 18, 2013

    Today’s ruling by India’s Supreme Court that the Indigenous (Adivasi) communities will have the final decision on plans for a bauxite mine by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa is a landmark victory in recognizing indigenous rights in India, Amnesty International said today.

    A 670-hectare bauxite mine was due to have been developed on the Dongria Kondh Indigenous community’s traditional lands and habitats which they consider sacred.

    "The Dongria Kondh community, whose identity is fully dependent on these hills, has been fighting for the survival of their way of life for a decade. The mine would have resulted in violation of their rights as Indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to water, food, health, work amongst others. This ruling is hugely important for the Dongria Kondh,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India.

    January 30, 2013

    Reports that members of Sudan's security forces were involved in January attacks that left up to 200 people dead near a goldmine in Darfur must urgently be investigated, Amnesty International said today.

    Fighting broke out on 5 January between members of Beni Hussein, an Arab tribe that lives locally and the pastoralist Rizeigat community, when a Rizeigat leader, who is also an officer in Sudan’s Border Guard, reportedly laid claim to a gold-rich area in Beni Hussein territory.

    Gunmen driving government vehicles are alleged to have opened fire on people in the the mostly Beni Hussein area of Kebkabiya using grenades and heavy machine guns. While many among the local population own automatic rifles, heavier weaponry of the sort used in these attacks is not normally available to civilians.

    "The Sudanese government should immediately investigate the reports that its security officers are involved in attacks against civilians and ensure they are not involved in any further attacks," said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International's Africa director.

    January 30, 2013

    A decision by a Dutch court today relating to Shell’s liability for pollution in the Niger Delta shows that justice is possible – but is extremely hard to achieve if you are taking on a massive multinational, Amnesty International said.

    “Clearly it’s good news that one of the plaintiffs in this case managed to clamber over all the obstacles to something approaching justice,” said Amnesty International’s Africa programme director Audrey Gaughran.

    “The court found Shell had a duty of care when it comes to preventing tampering with its pipelines.

    “However, the fact that the other plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed underscores the very serious obstacles people from the Niger Delta face in accessing justice when their lives have been destroyed by oil pollution.
     
    “Given the really serious difficulties of bringing these cases at all, the significance of today’s ruling is that one plaintiff prevailed and will get damages.

    December 10, 2012

    Shell’s investors are facing a tougher international legal environment that is likely to have a dramatic impact on its balance sheet as claims mount from its activities in the Niger Delta, according to a new independent report from specialists at the University of Essex.

    The potential liabilities range from sizeable damages for failures to take adequate steps to prevent and clean up oil spills, through to liabilities under USA and European stock exchange rules. 

    Responding to the report, Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Progamme Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

    “Amnesty International welcomes the findings of today’s independent report. It draws attention to Shell’s precarious legal position arising from its appalling impacts in the Niger Delta and brings closer the day when the company will be held accountable.

    “Large parts of the Niger Delta, home to more than 30 million people, have become a polluted wasteland due to the activities of oil companies.

    December 07, 2012

    Reacting to the announcement that the federal government has approved the takeover of the Canadian oil company Nexen Inc. by Chinese state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation, members of the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China expressed grave disappointment that serious and pressing human rights considerations do not appear to have played any significant role in the government’s decision.

    “The government has concluded that the deal is of ‘net benefit’ to Canada,” said Cheuk Kwan of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.  “But there is no indication that concerns about CNOOC’s human rights record or, more broadly, the Chinese government’s own continuing and longstanding poor human rights record were taken into account in any meaningful way.”

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