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Business and Human Rights

    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.”

    October 25, 2012

    The deaths of three residents of the northern port city of Colón in recent protests against government plans to sell off state-owned land must be thoroughly investigated by the Panamanian authorities, Amnesty International said today.

    On Tuesday evening, a 27-year-old woman became the third to die in clashes as police attempted to quell protests by civil society groups and local residents against a new law that would lead to land in Colón’s Free-Trade Zone being sold to foreign business interests.

    Her death follows that of a local man and a 9-year-old boy during protests earlier in the week.

    Local residents have alleged the police used tear gas and fired live rounds to disperse protesters, while Panama’s National Police told media that several police officers had been injured by gunshots and missiles thrown by some of the protesters.

    October 17, 2012

    The new Serbian government must introduce legislation which prohibits forced evictions, Amnesty International said in a briefing published today.  

    After Belvil: Serbia needs new laws against forced eviction looks into the devastating impact on the lives of almost 1,000 Roma who were forcibly evicted on 26 April 2012 from the informal settlement at Belvil in New Belgrade.  

    The organization says that this mass forced eviction demonstrates the need for legislative changes in Serbia. The authorities need to urgently adopt a law which prohibits forced evictions and sets out safeguards that must be complied with prior to any eviction so that the right to adequate housing and other human rights of any community due for evictions are respected.

    The authorities completely failed to apply crucial safeguards prior to the eviction, including genuine consultation with the nearly 1,000 people affected. They failed to explore all feasible alternatives to eviction and on resettlement. They failed to provide people with information, even on the reason for the eviction, or provide adequate notice or legal remedies.

    October 11, 2012

    Violent forced evictions in China are on the rise as local authorities seek to offset huge debts by seizing and then selling off land in suspect deals with property developers, Amnesty International said as it urged government action.

    In a new 85-page report, Standing Their Ground, Amnesty International highlights how forced evictions - a longstanding cause of discontent within China - have increased significantly in the past two years in order to clear the way for developments.

    Local governments have borrowed huge sums from state banks to finance stimulus projects and now rely on land sales to cover the payments.

    This has resulted in deaths, beatings, harassment and imprisonment of residents who have been forced from their homes across the country in both rural and urban areas.

    Some were in such despair they set themselves on fire in drastic protests of last resort. 

    October 11, 2012

    A court in The Hague is today hearing a civil case filed against the oil company Shell by four farmers from the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and Friends of the Earth Netherlands. The plaintiffs allege that oil spills from Shell pipelines destroyed their livelihoods, and are demanding a proper clean up of the pollution and compensation.

    Amnesty International has researched and reported on the devastating impact of oil pollution on human rights in the Niger Delta, including the rights to food, water, health and livelihood. Amnesty has highlighted how Shell, the main operator on-land, often does not respond to oil spills quickly or effectively, and fails properly to clean up pollution. People in the Niger Delta who are affected by pollution are often denied their right to an effective remedy.

    September 26, 2012

    The powers and ability of the Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate the deaths of 44 people near Lonmin’s Marikana mine in August must be clarified to ensure justice and redress for all those affected, Amnesty International said today.

    Less than a week before the Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Justice Ian Farlam, begins its work the scope of the powers it will have to gather evidence without hindrance, to compel the cooperation of witnesses or offer protection to those fearing reprisals remain unclear.

    It is also uncertain if the Commission has adequate resources to properly support all those who wish to provide evidence to the Inquiry.  Many potential witnesses may need financial support to engage with the Commission, including for legal advice and transport.  

    The Commission is also under pressure to embark on its work at extremely short notice and to present its findings within four months.

    September 25, 2012

    The brazen murder of a Honduran human rights lawyer underscores just why the country’s authorities must step up their efforts to protect human rights defenders and those they work to support, Amnesty International said.

    Antonio Trejo Cabrera died on Saturday evening after gunmen shot him five times outside a wedding ceremony in a southern suburb of the capital Tegucigalpa. Media accounts have described the shooting as a calculated act carried out by experts.

    The human rights lawyer had reported receiving death threats linked to his work representing the victims of human rights abuses amid an ongoing land conflict in the Bajo Aguán region in the north of the country.

    “This outrageous murder sows fear in the Honduran human rights community and must be a wake-up call for the authorities, who need drastically to step up measures to protect human rights defenders and the victims of abuses,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    September 24, 2012

     Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China

    c/o Amnesty International
    312 Laurier Avenue East
    Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1H9

    The Honourable Christian Paradis
    Minister of Industry
    C.D. Howe Building
    235 Queen Street
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5
    by email:  minister.industry@ic.gc.ca


    August 16, 2012


    Dear Minister,


    We write to you as members of the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China,1   a coalition of 15
    Canadian organizations dedicated to ensuring there is strong attention to human rights in Canada’s relationship with China. For over fifteen years, the coalition has regularly engaged with successive Canadian governments and parliamentarians - sharing information, raising concerns and advancing recommendations for Canadian policy. Collectively we offer a wide breadth of experience, expertise and contacts with respect to human rights in China and our organizations represent the views and concerns of hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

    September 06, 2012

    Negotiators from nine countries gathering outside Washington DC to draft a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement must ensure that any new rules on copyright and patents adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights, Amnesty International said today.

    “No one has the right to trade away our hard-fought legal protections for free speech and the right to health, and much less to do it behind closed doors,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director for Amnesty International USA.

    “It is time for TPP negotiators to show the public their cards and, more importantly, the draft text of the agreement.”

    This text has been kept a secret since negotiations began in 2007, but leaked information suggests that it would attempt to achieve some of the same objectives of the widely criticized Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement (ACTA).
     
    Specifically, leaked TPP draft text neglects protections for fair use and standard judicial guarantees – such as the presumption of innocence - and includes copyright provisions that could compromise free speech on the internet and access to educational materials.

    August 28, 2012

    Vedanta Resources plc is a UK-registered mining company under growing national and international scrutiny due to allegations of human rights abuses associated with its activities. During 2011-12, the company developed a human rights and sustainability policy framework which it claims are aligned to international standards and best practices. This briefing highlights the gap remaining between Vedanta’s stated policy framework and its practices in Orissa. In it, Amnesty International repudiates Vedanta’s attempts at self-exoneration, and renews its recommendations to address persistent human rights concerns associated with the company’s operations.

    August 28, 2012

    Amnesty International has accused the UK-registered mining company Vedanta of attempting to “gloss over” criticisms of its poor human rights record in the East Indian state of Orissa by publishing a “meaningless and hollow” report that puts forward the company’s own account of its operations there.  

    With the company staging its annual general meeting today (28 August) in London, Amnesty believes the “Vedanta’s Perspective” report is an attempt to calm investor fears over its controversial operations in India as it seeks to expand them.

    Amnesty International has responded with its own briefing, accusing the company of ignoring the reality of the mining giant’s impact on the human rights of local communities in Orissa.

    For example, Amnesty International reports that Vedanta has not disclosed relevant information to local communities – such as the impact of pollution caused by the company’s activities, and has not held meaningful public consultations.  

    August 08, 2012

    “They never consulted with us, they never told us… that this was going to have… so much negative impact, …that it was going to cause so much conflict.” -- Carmen Mejía, an Indigenous woman from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, describing Goldcorp Inc’s Marlin mine in Guatemala.

    In a short report to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9 August),  Amnesty International is calling on all governments of the Americas to respect the right of Indigenous peoples to make their own decisions about economic development activities on their lands.

    The brief cites examples from throughout the Americas where governments have failed to carry out  robust consultations to determine how plans for mining, oil and gas development and other development activities would affect the rights of Indigenous peoples. The brief also cites examples of such projects being carried out despite the clear objections of the affected peoples.

    August 03, 2012

    The investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta has been challenged today by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), as inconsistencies in Shell’s claims about sabotage were revealed.  

    Experts have examined evidence from the latest oil spill from Shell’s poorly maintained pipelines in the Bodo creek area and confirmed that it strongly indicates that the leak is due to corrosion of the pipeline. The oil spill was discovered on or close to 21 June 2012 in the Bodo creek area of the Niger Delta. The leak was stopped on 30 June. However, Shell appears to be ignoring the evidence of corrosion.

    “The investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta is a fiasco. There is more investment in public relations messaging than in facing up to the fact that much of the oil infrastructure is old, poorly maintained and prone to leaks – some of them devastating in terms of their human rights impact,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

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