Making the Unaccountable Accountable: Using Tort to Achieve Corporate Compliance with Human Rights Norms

Lexis Nexis
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Journal Article
Torts Law Journal, 2007, 15 (3), pp. 32 - 52
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The regulation of multinational corporations [MNCs] to ensure they comply with human rights standards, particularly when operating outside their headquarter countries, is a major challenge facing societies in general and human rights activists in particular. Increasingly, MNCs have been identified as the perpetrators of both soft violations of human rights norms such as poor employment conditions and environmental degradation as well as hard violations of human rights norms including child labour, murder and conspiring with oppressive regimes. Existing avenues of regulation which include international law, self regulation, civil regulation and domestic law have individually and cumulatively proved insufficient to force or nudge MNCs towards human rights compliance. However, the extraterritorial use of tort to challenge such entities, a strategy increasingly being utilised in a number of jurisdictions including Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States has provided a potential alternate framework. This article therefore evaluates the efficacy of tort to supplement and surpass current regulatory frameworks that have proven inadequate to the task. In particular, it focuses on the United States and the Alien Tort Claims Act [ATCA] which provides the most developed and innovative example of the employment of tort in this context to date.
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