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Victims should take centre-stage in corporate human rights remedies, UN experts say

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NEW YORK (17 October 2017) – Victims seeking redress for corporate human rights abuses are suffering intimidation, harassment, detention and in some cases even murder, a group of UN experts has warned, setting out new proposals to give victims a key role in the processes designed to protect their rights and provide effective remedies.

“The idea is simple: victims must be at the centre of the mechanisms that are meant to provide them access to effective remedy. Yet this is often far from reality,” said Surya Deva, Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, presenting the expert group’s report to the UN General Assembly in New York today.

The report, based on real-life obstacles faced by victims, sets out recommendations for States and businesses to ensure that remedial mechanisms are responsive to the diverse experiences and expectations of rights holders.

The report underlines the need to apply a gender lens and consider the question of effective remedies from the perspective of affected individuals and communities. Victims should be able to seek remedies without any fear of further victimization.

“The main responsibility to protect people against victimization rests with States, but businesses should also play their part. They need to ensure that action to defend corporate interests, such as pressing defamation charges, do not discourage people from exercising their right to access remedies,” he added.

The right to an effective remedy is a core tenet of international human rights law and of the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (PDF). States have an obligation to put in place effective remedial mechanisms to investigate, punish and redress business-related human rights abuses. Businesses also have a responsibility to provide and cooperate in remediation when they have caused or contributed to adverse human rights impacts.

The report will also be key to discussions at this year’s UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, which takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 27 to 29 November 2017, under the theme of “Realizing Access to Effective Remedy”.

The Forum, the world’s largest gathering on business and human rights, brings together leaders, practitioners and advocates from business, civil society, governments, and international and regional organizations. More than 2,000 participants from 140 countries are expected to attend.

ENDS

NOTE FOR THE EDITOR: The Working Group’s report complements guidance issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on how to improve accountability and remedy for cases of business-related human rights abuse. See also a mapping of projects and initiatives on access to remedy which the Working Group is conducting in the lead up to the 2017 Forum on Business and Human Rights.

The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. Its current members are: Mr. Michael Addo, Mr. Surya Deva (current Chairperson), Mr. Dante Pesce, Ms. Anita Ramasastry (current vice chair) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga.

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Working Groups report to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.  Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For additional information and media requests please contact the Working Group Secretariat at: +41 22 917 9323 / wg-business@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries in New York:
Ravina Shamdasani –  (+1 347 446 5294/ ravina.shamdasani@un.org)    

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