Corporate involvement in Atrocity Crimes, Gross Human Rights Violations, and Ecocide: Patterns of involvement, strategies for prevention and accountability

11 Jul to 12 Jul

Coordinators: Annika van Baar (VU University Amsterdam), Susanne Karstedt (Griffith University), Wim Huisman (VU University Amsterdam)

Description of the meeting

At Nuremberg, corporate actors stood on trial for their active involvement and complicity in the crimes of the German Nazi State. It was only at the end of the last century that corporations were again scrutinized and accused of human rights violations and atrocity crimes. In particular, the Ruggie report showed how widespread such involvement was, and which industries were among the main perpetrators. Since then, international organisations, NGOs, and businesses have developed new instruments to prevent such crimes and violations, to make corporations accountable, and generally establish a regime of regulations and ‘soft law’. Important new regulatory instruments are the UN Guiding Principles on Business (UNGPs) and Human Rights and European domestic and regional legislation on mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence. Further, NGOs turn to civil and criminal court cases for norm development and accountability, with criminal cases filed at Dutch, German, and French courts against brands such as Nike and others. Recently, companies like the Wagner company and consumer brands such as Heineken have been scrutinized for their roles in and connections to atrocity crimes committed in Ukraine. A range of regulatory instruments and regimes is emerging, involving states, markets, and business associations, as well as consumers and civil society.
Corporations are linked to serious environmental impacts such as environmental destruction, climate change, and ecocide, including the destruction of the livelihood of ethnic groups (through chemicals, overfishing, etc). Such environmental issues are increasingly framed as atrocity crimes, and board members (of Shell in the UK) and corporations (i.e. Holcim in Germany) have recently been brought to court for contributions to climate change. In addition, new technologies and AI are used for the detection and prevention of such crimes.
This workshop will bring together researchers and experts from criminology, law, international relations, and computer science. The workshop has two aims: First, to map and understand patterns of involvement, the roles of states and their complicity as well as of non-state actors, and political and conflict contexts. Second, to analyse existing regulatory regimes and develop strategies aligned to ongoing patterns of corporate involvement in atrocity crimes, in order to improve prevention and accountability.


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