Business and human rights: Strengthen resolutions to protect human rights defenders

25.06.2014

Two draft resolutions on the topic of business and human rights set for consideration by the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow manifestly fail to protect human rights defenders and others who work on issues of corporate accountability, a coalition of leading international, regional and national organisations said in an open letter released today.

(Geneva) - Two draft resolutions on the topic of business and human rights set for consideration by the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow manifestly fail to protect human rights defenders and others who work on issues of corporate accountability, a coalition of leading international, regional and national organisations said in an open letter released today. This is despite mounting evidence of worsening attacks against human rights defenders who work to expose and ensure accountability for human rights violations by business, and widespread impunity for such attacks.

The open letter - which has been signed by 27 organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FORUM-ASIA, Global Witness and ISHR - calls on States to support amendments to the resolutions to recognise the positive role that human rights defenders play in promoting corporate responsibility and accountability and to condemn all threats, attacks and reprisals against them in connection with this work. The letter also calls for amendments to reflect the obligations of States to support and protect civil society actors working on business and human rights issues, and to investigate and ensure accountability for attacks against them.

'With two draft resolutions on the issue of business and human rights, the Human Rights Council and its Member States have an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to enhance the protection of human rights defenders who work on issues of corporate accountability,' said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.

'It is incumbent on the sponsors and supporters of these resolutions, all of whom say that they are committed to improving access to justice for victims of human rights violations by business, to ensure that the resolutions recognise and protect human rights defenders, the work of whom is essential to expose and seek accountability for violations and who are themselves frequently the target of violations.'

A number of recent reports have documented worsening attacks and restrictions from both governments and private actors against human rights defenders who work on business issues, with the UN Working Group itself expressing grave concern about 'alleged murders, attacks and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders who campaign against the adverse impacts of extractive company operations and allegations regarding the impact of mining and hydroelectric projects on indigenous peoples.' (para 69). The Working Group goes on to recommend that States should ‘Ensure the protection of human rights defenders who raise awareness of the impacts of business activities … and communicate to business enterprises that they also need to respect the rights of human rights defenders’. (para 94(c)).

'It is deeply regrettable that these findings and recommendations are not yet reflected in either of the draft resolutions on business and human rights being led by Norway and Ecuador, respectively. We urge the sponsors and supporters of these resolutions to uphold their stated commitment to corporate accountability and access to justice for victims by ensuring they are amended to recognise, protect and support the vital work of human rights defenders in this regard,' Mr Lynch said. 

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights, on p.lynch@ishr.ch or + 41 76 708 4738.

Category:

Topic
  • Corporate accountability
Mechanism
  • UN Human Rights Council
Country
  • Ecuador
  • Norway