CorporateAccountabilityandLiability.Duruigbo

CorporateAccountabilityandLiability.Duruigbo - Cite as: 6...

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Cite as: 6 Nw. U. J. Int'l Hum. Rts. 222 at http://www.law.northwestern.edu/journals/jihr/v6/n2/2 JIHR Home > Volume 6 > Issue 2 (Spring 2008) Northwestern University Journal of International Human Rights Corporate Accountability and Liability for International Human Rights Abuses: Recent Changes and Recurring Challenges Emeka Duruigbo * pdf version The function of international law is to provide a legal basis for the orderly management of international relations. The traditional nature of that law was keyed to the actualities of past centuries in which international relations were inter-state relations. The actualities have changed; the law is changing. 1 Introduction ¶ 1 A piece published in the Harvard Law Review in 2001 made an ostensibly innocuous statement on the extant state of international law regarding the legal status of corporations. Though corporations are capable of interfering with the enjoyment of a broad range of human rights, international law has failed both to articulate the human rights obligations of corporations and to provide mechanisms for regulating corporate conduct in the field of human rights. Since the nineteenth century, international law has addressed almost exclusively the conduct of states. Traditionally, states were viewed as the only "subjects" of international law, the only entities capable of bearing legal rights and duties. Over the last fifty years, though, the gradual establishment of an elaborate regime of international human rights law and international criminal law has begun to redefine the individual's role under international law. It is now generally accepted that individuals have rights under international human rights law and obligations under international criminal law. This redefinition, however, has occurred only partially with respect to legal persons such as corporations: international law views corporations as possessing certain human rights, but it generally does not recognize corporations as bearers of legal obligations under international criminal law . 2 ¶ 2 The article also stated that "international law is virtually silent with respect to corporate liability for violations of human rights" 3 and "has neither articulated the human rights obligations of corporations nor provided mechanisms to enforce such obligations." 4 ¶ 3 The above statements have been the subject of severe strictures by a section of the scholarly community who view them as a misstatement of the law. 5 Some of these scholars, supported by human rights activists, have proceeded to argue that international human rights law imposes direct duties on corporations and other private actors. 6
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¶ 4 The two opposing positions have recently been challenged by the United Nations ("UN") Secretary-General's Special Representative on the issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises ("SRSG") 7 mandated by the UN's apex human rights body, 8 inter alia , to identify and clarify the obligations of corporations in
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CorporateAccountabilityandLiability.Duruigbo - Cite as: 6...

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