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Targeting Rogue Business in Violent Conflict

Jan 11, 2011

The London NGO Global Witness is proposing a new framework that could close legal loopholes which allow corporate crimes in conflict zones (full disclosure: I am an advisor to GW and helped draft the report).

“There are far too many examples of companies which are complicit in or profit from appalling human rights abuses in conflict areas – but no successful prosecutions to date,“ said Andie Lambe of Global Witness in a press statement today. “There is no moral, legal or economic argument for this status quo. For it to change, we must equip prosecutors and the courts with the tools to bring the guilty to justice and discourage other companies from becoming involved in these appalling crimes.”

The press release goes on to say that Global Witness and other organisations have repeatedly highlighted cases where rogue businesses have exploited violent situations, often cooperating with abusive governments and public or private security forces to gain control of lucrative natural resource trades. Courts around the world have been challenged to pursue those involved, but only a handful of business people have been convicted, while no company has ever been successfully prosecuted.

The report – Simply Criminal: Targetting Rogue Business in Violent Conflict – seeks to end this culture of impunity by clarifying and strengthening existing laws, and proposes a new measure to deal with businesses that traffic in goods sourced from conflict zones. This innovative framework utilises domestic anti-corruption and international criminal law, to tackle corporate human rights abuses. It sets clear common standards for companies and empowers prosecutors to hold them accountable when they fail to meet these standards.

The proposed framework would:

1) Specify in law where and how existing laws addressing murder, torture, rape, pillage and other war crimes could be applied to business entities.
2) Legally strengthen and clarify existing measures which prohibit businesses providing assistance such as transport, weapons, equipment, or logistical support to those who commit violent crimes.
3) Introduce new laws which forbid companies from dealing in conflict goods.

For more information please contact: Mark Taylor, Senior Advisor to Global Witness…or leave a comment below!