A new report calls on the Government to ensure that companies respect human rights and to provide guidance to businesses on the requirements of human rights due diligence, including when operating overseas. Such due diligence should be a mandatory requirement underpinned by legislation, according to the report’s authors at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway. ‘Business and Human Rights in Ireland’ aims to contribute to policy, practice and law on business and human rights in Ireland. The report will be officially launched this evening by Professor Michael O’Flaherty, who is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Illustrative examples of business negatively impacting on human rights provide a context for the report. Prominent examples mentioned in the report include Irish technology companies implicated in Syrian censorship, the Corrib gas dispute involving Shell and Statoil, the working conditions of migrant workers engaged in mushroom picking, the treatment of GAMA construction workers, and the working conditions in the supply chain for Penneys/Primark. Multinational companies headquartered in Ireland, such as Apple, Continue reading
Judgment in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor will take place shortly in the Special Court for Sierra Leone. You can see the judgment here. Charles Taylor was charged with an 11-count indictment alleging responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone during a decade long civil war.
He faces 5 counts of war crimes of terrorising civilians – murder, outrages on personal dignity, cruel treatment and looting and 5 counts of crimes against humanity – murder, rape, sexual slavery, mutilating and beating and enslavement and 1 count of other serious violations of humanitarian law in recruiting and using child soldiers. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The Taylor trial opened on 4 June 2007 in the Hague and was adjourned immediately after the Prosecution’s opening statement when he dismissed his defence team and requested new legal representation. Witness testimony commenced on 7 January 2008 and concluded on 12 November 2010. Closing arguments took place in February and March of 2011. The Court heard live testimony from 94 Prosecution witnesses, and received written statements from four other witnesses. The defence presented 21 witnesses with the defendant giving evidence in his defence. The delivery of the judgment had taken nearly a year due to the complexity of the case. At the Special Court for Sierra Leone as with other international tribunals, both the Prosecution and the Defence have a right to appeal. If Charles Taylor is acquitted of all charges, the appeals process will begin immediately. If he is found guilty on any of the 11 counts the trial chamber will schedule sentencing proceedings.
On 22 March, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted the draft resolution, proposed by the United States, on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. It was issued in a context of war crimes accusations over the conduct of Sri Lankan forces in the final throes of the conflict with the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in April-May 2009, including a chilling documentary from Channel 4’s Jon Snow which has been influential in turning international opinion against Sri Lanka’s president, Mr Rajapaksa, and his government. Continue reading
We are delighted to welcome this Guest post from Dr Shane Darcy. Dr Darcy is a lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway. A previous version of this article appeared in the Sunday Business Post on 11 March 2012.
The news that products provided by Irish companies are being implicated in repression and human right abuses overseas should not come as a surprise, given the lack of adequate regulation here. Software sold in Syria by Dublin-based Cellusys and AdaptiveMobile has been reported as being used by the Syrian government to censor text messages by protestors challenging President Assad’s rule. This is a government which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has accused of “gross, widespread and systematic human rights violations”, amounting perhaps to crimes against humanity. As Ireland increasingly positions itself as an export orientated economy, its commitment to human rights requires that it ensure that companies operating here are human rights compliant.
This is not the first instance of involvement by Irish companies in the suppression of human rights outside of Ireland. Bloomberg reported in October 2011 that a system sold by AdaptiveMobile may have been used by Iran’s law enforcement and security agencies in their repression of political activists. Cement Roadstone Holdings has been criticised for its 25% shareholding of Israeli company Mashav, which controls Nesher Cement, supplier of concrete for the construction of settlements and the ‘separation wall’, declared to be unlawful by the International Court of Justice. Human rights is not just a matter for Continue reading
A one-day conference organised by the Irish Centre for Human Rights and the School of Law, NUI Galway entitled “Ireland and the United Nations Framework for Business and Human Rights” will take place on 24 March 2012 at the National University of Ireland Galway. The conference seeks to explore and analyse issues of law and policy for Ireland arising from the 2011 adoption by the United Nations of Professor John Ruggie’s framework for business and human rights. The framework emphasises a State’s duty to protect human rights, a corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the need to provide remedies to respond to violations of human rights by business. This conference seeks to look beyond the voluntary corporate social responsibility approach to business and human rights; as Maurice Manning, President of the Irish Human Rights Commission has observed, “voluntarism can never be a substitute for global standards on businesses’ mandatory compliance with human rights”. The organisers welcome in particular contributions which address seek to address legal questions which arise in relation to the UN framework on business and human rights. Ireland represents an obvious case study in this context, given the presence of numerous multinational corporations, increasing privatisation of public services and allegations of corporate involvement in human rights violations both in and outside of Ireland. The conference aims to address the following topics:
- Legal and policy approaches to regulation of Irish companies for human rights
- Obligations of the State and companies when public functions are privatised
- Role of extraterritorial jurisdiction in Irish law to address violations committed overseas by Irish companies or multinationals based here
- The potential role of criminal law to address violations of human rights by business
- Civil litigation as a means accountability – lessons from the Alien Tort Claims Act
- Remedies for victims
Abstracts should be sent by 21 December 2011 to: Dr Shane Darcy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr Ciara Hackett (email@example.com). Successful applicants will be informed in January 2012 of their acceptance to the conference. For further information and registration for the conference please contact: Hadeel Abu Hussein: firstname.lastname@example.org
She strutted in larkish delight, calling to others less splendid, “How do yez like me now?” 
Today is the 95th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, and of the publication of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, chiefly (for good or ill) remembered as a declaration of resolve to ‘cherish all the children of the nation equally’. In the past year, as Irish public figures have tried to describe the economic and political predicament in which we find ourselves, Easter 1916 has been invoked again and again in support of many and varied claims – about the precarious state of our sovereignty, and about how it might be regained or asserted. For now, below, without further comment, a highlights reel of 1916 references from the past 6 months:
The recommended reading this weekend is the excellent The Devil and Mr. Casement . Jordan Goodman provides a wonderful insight into the human rights work of Roger Casement in uncovering gross human rights abuses within Peru at the turn of the last century. This text examines how native slavery and gross human rights abuses were documented by Casement and how this brought issues relating to colonialism, the rights of the native peoples and corporate human rights abuses to the fore (albeit briefly and with little substantive change). This very engaging book on practices of a company in the 20th century also has a more timely significance in that the reader can readily relate these abuses to current issues in the developing world on issues of private companies, power, money and human rights, unpaid/low paid labour in developing countries and political responses (or non-responses) to these issues in a now even more globalised world.
The wave of protests in North Africa has been followed by a persistent question – which state is next? This is underlined by the fact that the protests have by all accounts ‘spread’ from Tunisia to Jordan and Egypt. With the toppling of Mr Ben Ali, and last night’s sour acceptance from Mr Mubarak that he will eventually leave, commentators are looking around to see if this will continue, and if so, where.
It is self-evidently dangerous to engage in predictions on political instability, but everyone is at it. And at least to some extent, this prediction game must have influenced the Egyptian protesters. See for example this Newsweek piece from last week, which asked in the wake of Tunisia whether forthcoming Egyptian protests could lead to the same result. The article opines that “clues as to how Tunisia’s revolution will affect the region’s other autocratic regimes might be found in Cairo in the coming week”. It was to be a test as to whether the “revolution is contagious”. Continue reading
The issue of reforming the political system is a live one at present and, as we look forward to a general election and the opportunities that it might bring, it is indeed important to consider the changes that might be made to our political system so as to increase its efficiency, its transparency, and its ability to properly represent the interests of the Irish people.
This post does not put forward any radical suggestions for change, but pleads, instead, for our future political representatives and legislators to consider two related basic points:
1. Legislation is not the answer to everything; and
2. Rushing through significant legislative proposals without appropriate time for discussion is both disrespectful to the political process and reckless in terms of their impact.
While my focus here is on the criminal justice system, most of what I have to say may equally apply to other parts of Irish society. Continue reading