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Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms has entered into force – beware: the time for filing an application has been shortened from 6 to 4 months

Today (1 August 2021) the Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms has entered into force. This Protocol will apply in all 47 States Parties. Although it was open for signature/ratification since 2013, the ratification of Italy only occurred until 21 April 2021.

In the past, we have highlighted in this blog the increasing interaction between human rights and private international law and the need to interpret them harmoniously (see for example our previous posts here (HCCH Child Abduction Convention) and here (transnational surrogacy)).

Protocol No. 15 has introduced important amendments to the text of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). In particular, it has included the principle of subsidiary and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation in the preamble, which have long and consistently been adopted by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and thus this is a welcome amendment.

It will now read as follows (art. 1 of the Protocol):

“Affirming  that  the  High  Contracting  Parties,  in  accordance  with  the  principle  of subsidiarity, have the primary responsibility to secure the rights and freedoms defined in this Convention and the Protocols thereto, and that in doing so they enjoy a margin of appreciation,  subject  to  the supervisory  jurisdiction  of  the  European  Court  of  Human Rights established by this Convention”.

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International Doctorate Programme “Business and Human Rights: Governance Challenges in a Complex World”

Funded by Elite Network of Bavaria the International Doctorate Programme „Business and Human Rights: Governance Challenges in a Complex World“ (IDP B&HR_Governance) establishes an inter- and transdisciplinary research forum for excellent doctoral projects addressing practically relevant problems and theoretically grounded questions in the field of business and human rights. Research in the IDP B&HR_Governance will focus on four distinct areas:

  • Global value chains and transnational economic governance
  • Migration and changing labour relations
  • Digital transformation
  • Environmental sustainability

The IDP’s research profile builds on law and management as the core disciplines of B&HR complemented by sociology, political, and information sciences. Close cooperation with partners from businesses, civil society, and political actors will enable the doctoral researchers to develop their projects in a broader context to ensure practical relevance. The IDP’s curriculum, lasting for eight semesters, aims at contributing to the professional development of independent and critical researchers through a variety of courses, research retreats, colloquia, and conferences as well as the possibility of practical projects.

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A step in the right direction, but nothing more – A critical note on the Draft Directive on mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence

Written by Bastian Brunk, research assistant at the Humboldt University of Berlin and doctoral candidate at the Institute for Comparative and Private International Law at the University of Freiburg.

 

In April of 2020, EU Commissioner Didier Reynders announced plans for a legislative initiative that would introduce EU-wide mandatory human rights due diligence requirements for businesses. Only recently, Reynders reiterated his intentions during a conference regarding “Human Rights and Decent Work in Global Supply Chains” which was hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on the 6. October, and asseverated the launch of public consultations within the next few weeks. A draft report, which was prepared by MEP Lara Wolters (S&D) for the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, illustrates what the prospective EU legal framework for corporate due diligence could potentially look like. The draft aims to facilitate access to legal remedies in cases of corporate human rights abuses by amending the Brussels Ibis Regulation as well as the Rome II Regulation. However, as these amendments have already inspired a comments by Geert van Calster, Giesela Rühl, and Jan von Hein, I won’t delve into them once more. Instead, I will focus on the centre piece of the draft report – a proposal for a Directive that would establish mandatory human rights due diligence obligations for businesses. If adopted, the Directive would embody a milestone for the international protection of human rights. As is, the timing could simply not be better, since the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2021. The EU should take this opportunity to present John Ruggie, the author of the UNGPs, with a special legislative gift. However, I’m not entirely sure if Ruggie would actually enjoy this particular present, as the Directive has obvious flaws. The following passages aim to accentuate possible improvements, that would lead to the release of an appropriate legal framework next year. I will not address every detail but will rather focus on the issues I consider the most controversial – namely the scope of application and the question of effective enforcement.

 

General Comments

 

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Back to the Future – (Re-)Introducing the Principle of Ubiquity for Business-related Human Rights Claims

On 11 September 2020, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs presented a draft report with recommendations to the Commission on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability. This report has already triggered first online comments by Geert van Calster and Giesela Rühl; the present contribution aims both at joining and at broadening this debate. The draft report consists of three proposals: first, a directive containing substantive rules on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability; secondly, amendments to the Brussels Ibis Regulation that are designed to grant claimants from third states access to justice in the EU Member States; and thirdly, an amendment to the Rome II Regulation on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations. The latter measure would introduce a new Art. 6a Rome II, which codifies the so-called principle of ubiquity for business-related human rights claims, i.e. that plaintiffs are given the right to choose between various laws in force at places with which the tort in question is closely connected. While the basic conflicts rule remains the place of damage (lex loci damni) under Art. 4(1) Rome II, Art. 6a of the Rome II-draft will allow plaintiffs to opt for the law of the country in which the event giving rise to the damage occurred (the place of action or lex loci delicti commissi in the narrow sense), the law of the country in which the parent company has its domicile, or, where it does not have a domicile in a Member State, the law of the country where it operates.

The need for having a conflicts rule on the law applicable to business-related human rights claims derives from the fact that the draft report proposes a directive which only lays down minimum requirements for corporate due diligence concerning human rights, but which does not contain an independent set of rules on civil liability triggered by a violation of such standards. Thus, domestic corporate and tort laws will continue to play an important role in complementing the rules of the directive once they have been transposed into domestic law. In theory, this problem might be avoided by trying to pass a wholesale EU Regulation containing both rules on corporate due diligence as well as on related issues of civil liability. The EU has already passed the Regulations on Timber and Conflict Minerals, which deal with fairly specific issues and which are limited in their scope. Taking into account, however, that both domestic corporate law and tort law are very intricate bodies of law, the EU legislature so far has, in the overwhelming number of cases, opted for the less intrusive and more flexible instrument of a directive (see, e.g., the Directive [EU] 2017/1132 relating to certain aspects of company law or the Product Liability Directive). The regulatory choice made in the draft report is thus fully consistent with established modes of EU legislation and the principle of subsidiarity.

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Human rights in global supply chains: Do we need to amend the Rome II-Regulation?

Written by Giesela Rühl, Humboldt-University of Berlin

 

The protection of human rights in global supply chains has been high on the agenda of national legislatures for a number of years. Most recently, also the European Union has joined the bandwagon. After Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders announced plans to prepare a European human rights to due diligence instrument in April 2020, the JURI Committee of the European Parliament has now published a Draft Report on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability. The Report contains a motion for a European Parliament Resolution and a Proposal for a Directive which will, if adopted, require European companies – and companies operating in Europe – to undertake broad mandatory human rights due diligence along the entire supply chain. Violations will result, among others, in a right of victims to claim damages.

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A few thoughts on the HCCH Guide to Good Practice on the grave-risk exception (Art. 13(1)(b)) under the Child Abduction Convention, through the lens of human rights (Part II)

Written by Mayela Celis – The comments below are based on the author’s doctoral thesis entitled “The Child Abduction Convention – four decades of evolutive interpretation” at UNED (forthcoming)

As indicated in a previous post, the comments on the HCCH Guide to Good Practice on the grave-risk exception (Art. 13(1)(b)) under the Child Abduction Convention (subsequently, Guide to Good Practice or Guide) will be divided into two posts. In a previous post, I analysed the Guide exclusively through the lens of human rights. In the present post, I will comment on some specific legal issues of the Guide but will also touch upon on some aspects of human rights law.

Please refer to Part I. All the caveats mentioned in that post also apply here.

The Guide to Good Practice is available here.

I would like to touch upon three topics in this post: 1) the examples of assertions that can be raised under Article 13(1)(b) and their categorisation; 2) measures of protection and 3) domestic violence.

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A few thoughts on the Guide to Good Practice on the grave-risk exception (Art. 13(1)(b)) under the Child Abduction Convention, through the lens of human rights (Part I)

Written by Mayela Celis – The comments below are based on the author’s doctoral thesis entitled “The Child Abduction Convention – four decades of evolutive interpretation” at UNED

As mentioned in a previous post, after many years in the making, the Guide to Good Practice on the grave-risk exception (Article 13(1)(b)) under the Child Abduction Convention (grave-risk exception Guide or Guide) has been published. Please refer to our previous posts here and here. This Guide to Good Practice deals with a very controversial topic indeed. The finalisation and approval of this Guide is without a doubt a milestone and thus, this Guide will be of great benefit to users.

For ease of reference, I include the relevant provision dealt with in the Guide. Article 13(1)(b) of the Child Abduction Convention sets out the following: “Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding Article, the judicial or administrative authority of the requested State is not bound to order the return of the child if the person, institution or other body which opposes its return establishes that – […] b) there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation. […]” (our emphasis).

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Public international law requirements for the effective enforcement of human rights

Written by Peter Hilpold, University of Innsbruck

Note: This blogpost is part of a series on „Corporate social responsibility and international law“ that presents the main findings of the contributions published in August Reinisch, Stephan Hobe, Eva-Maria Kieninger & Anne Peters (eds), Unternehmensverantwortung und Internationales Recht, C.F. Müller, 2020.

1. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011) have set forth a process by which Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) rules are to be further specified. The approach followed is not to impose specific results but to create procedures by which CSR is given further flesh on the basis of a continuing dialogue between all relevant stakeholders.

2. The operationalization of this concept takes place by a three pillar model („protect“, „respect“, „remedy“) based on an approach called „embedded liberalism“ according to which the creation of a liberal economic order allowing also for governmental and international intervention is pursued.

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Private international law requirements for the effective enforcement of human rights

Written by Tanja Domej, University of Zurich

Note: This blogpost is part of a series on „Corporate social responsibility and international law“ that presents the main findings of the contributions published in August Reinisch, Stephan Hobe, Eva-Maria Kieninger & Anne Peters (eds), Unternehmensverantwortung und Internationales Recht, C.F. Müller, 2020.

1. It is essential for the effective enforcement of human and workers’ rights to create effective local institutions and procedures. This encompasses functioning, trustworthy and accessible civil courts, but also other public, private and criminal institutions and mechanisms (e.g. permission, licencing or inspection procedures to ensure safety in the workplace; accident insurance; trade unions). Civil litigation cannot be a substitute for such mechanisms – particularly if it takes place far away from the place where the relevant events occurred.