Friday, February 9, 2007

Corporate Responsibility

Beyond manslaughter, issues abound about the wider human rights responsibilities of corporations. Since the owner of the company that manufactured Zyclon B gas was executed in the Nurembourg trials following World War II, the question has been asked whether corporations be tried for crimes such as genocide or human rights violations.

Practically, the answer for the moment is no. The current international criminal tribunals and the international criminal court can only try individuals. Although the managers of the infamous RTLM radio station in Rwanda could be charged with inciting or instigating genocide, the company itself could not.

Some will ask should corporations ever be liable for human rights abuses? After all a corporation’s primary responsibility is to its shareholders. Human rights do not always make good business. The counter argument is that corporations have been involved in serious human rights violations in the past. In the Democratic Republic of Congo it was long suspected that Western companies were supplying financial and logistical aid to rebel factions in return for access to mineral resources. As trans-national corporations grow more economically powerful the risk of abuse increases.

There is no clear answer to this debate. Some companies self-regulate by voluntarily adopting human rights statements. Meanwhile NGOs continue to press for hard legal rules to define when a company commits an offence and how they should be punished.


Lawyerlike said...

Might I suggest you adding a new lawblog to your list, "Gray's Law Dictionary."

It's a more educational law blog, and has just recently been updated by its owner.

Cheers, LL

Alf Murphy said...

Senate Security Services, Cheshire do a nice presentation on his subject