Tag Archive for: business and human rights

Out Now: Aristova, Tort Litigation against Transnational Corporations. The Challenge of Jurisdiction in English Courts

Ekaterina Aristova (Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford) is the author of the ‘Tort Litigation against Transnational Corporations: The Challenge of Jurisdiction in English Courts’ (OUP 2024), which has just been published in the Oxford Private International Law series. She has kindly shared the following summary with us:

The book examines the approach of the English courts to the question of jurisdiction in civil liability claims brought against English-based parent companies and their foreign subsidiaries as co-defendants (e.g., Lubbe v Cape, Lungowe v Vedanta, Okpabi v Shell, etc.). While the book is written from the perspective of English law, the book also draws on examples of similar cases in Australia, Canada, EU Member States, and the US to broaden the discussion.

The assertion of jurisdiction in parent company liability claims based on a nexus with the forum state presents a challenge to the courts. The territorial focus of the adjudicative jurisdiction is often contrary to the transnational nature of cross-border business activities. Transnational corporations (TNCs) have the flexibility to spread operations over multiple jurisdictions and create a legal separation between the subsidiary’s activities and the home state of the parent company. Courts rely on various private international law rules and doctrines to resolve the question of jurisdiction in parent company liability claims, including forum non conveniens doctrine in common law legal systems, the mandatory rule of domicile under EU law, and the presumption against extraterritoriality in US jurisprudence. The broad disparities in the issues of civil jurisdiction among domestic legal regimes and the considerable controversy surrounding the exercise of extraterritorial regulation over corporate operations often lead to the creation of a ‘jurisdictional veil’ for the parent company and a significant degree of autonomy, largely free from the control of any national jurisdiction.

To address this puzzle, this book seeks to answer three questions: 1) To what extent can English courts, under existing rules, exercise jurisdiction over English parent companies and their foreign subsidiaries as co-defendants? 2) Is England a suitable forum for deciding parent company liability claims? 3) Should the jurisdictional competence of the English courts be broadened through a new connecting factor derived from the ‘economic enterprise’ theory?

The book aims to offer a new angle to the discourse by placing the discussion of parent company liability claims in the context of the topical debate about the changing role of private international law in a globalised world. The transnational adjudication of disputes, cross-border activities of non-state actors and expansion of private law-making challenge several conventional assumptions of the discipline of private international law, including its focus on territoriality and geographical connecting factors and its capacity to interact with public mechanisms. Home state courts have become the fora for struggles between TNCs and vulnerable communities from the host states, raising complex questions about (il)legitimate forum shopping, the appropriate forum, and the limits of judicial discretion. Parent company liability claims impact how we think about private international law and its function, and the reader is invited to explore these challenging dynamics.

The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights in Oxford will celebrate the publication of the book by hosting a (hybrid) book launch and wine reception on 5 June 2024.

The Kenyan Supreme Court holds that Scottish Locus Inspection Orders must be Examined by the Kenyan Courts for Recognition and Enforcement in Kenya

Miss Anam Abdul-Majid (LLM, University of Birmingham; LLB, University of Nairobi; BSC.IBA, United States International University; Advocate and Head of Corporate and Commercial Department, KSM Advocates, Nairobi, Kenya).

Dr Chukwuma Okoli (Assistant Professor in Commercial Conflict of Laws at the University of Birmingham; Senior Research Associate; Private International Law in Emerging Countries, University of Johannesburg)

We would like to thank Joy Chebet, Law Student at Kenyatta University, for her research assistance and comments. We would also like to thank Professor Beligh Elbalti for his critical comments on the draft blogpost.



Kenya is one of the countries that make up East Africa and is therefore part of the broader African region. As such, developments in Kenyan law are likely to have a profound impact on neighbouring countries and beyond, consequently warranting special attention.

In the recent case of Ingang’a & 6 others v James Finlay (Kenya) Limited (Petition 7 (E009) of 2021) [2023] KESC 22 (KLR), the Kenyan Supreme Court dismissed an appeal for the recognition and enforcement of a locus inspection order issued by a Scottish Court. The Kenyan Supreme Court held that ‘decisions by foreign courts and tribunals are not automatically recognized or enforceable in Kenya. They must be examined by the courts in Kenya for them to gain recognition and to be enforced’ [para 66]. In its final order, the Court recommended that in Kenya:

‘The Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate, the Attorney-General, and the Kenya Law Reform Commission, attended with a signal of the utmost urgency, for any necessary amendments, formulation and enactment of statute law to give effect to this judgment and develop the legislation on judicial assistance in obtaining evidence for civil proceedings in foreign courts and tribunals.’

This Case is highly significant, because it extensively addresses the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Kenya and the principles to be considered by the Kenyan Courts. It is therefore a Case that other African countries, common law jurisdictions, and further parts of the globe could find invaluable.



The Case outlined below pertained to the enforcement of a foreign judgment/ruling in Kenya, specifically, a Scottish ruling. As a brief overview, the Appellants were individuals who claimed to work for the Respondent, the latter being a company incorporated in Scotland.  However, their place of employment was Kenya, namely, Kericho. The nature of the claim consisted of work-related injuries, attributed to the Respondent’s negligence due to the Appellants’ poor working conditions at the tea estates in Kericho. The claim was filed before the courts in Scotland, where inspection orders were sought by the Appellants and granted by the Courts. The purpose of the locus inspection order was to collect evidence by sending experts to Kenya and submit a report which can be used by the Scottish court to determine the liability of the Respondent. However, the respondent fearing compliance with the Scottish locus inspection order, sought an order from Kenyan Court to prevent the execution of the locus inspection order in Kenya, leading to a petition being filed by the Appellants before the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Kenya.

Nevertheless, the trial court ruled against the Appellants and stated that the enforcement of foreign judgments in Kenya, especially interlocutory orders, required Kenyan judicial aid to ensure that the foreign judgments aligned with Kenya’s public policy. This was further affirmed by the Court of Appeal, which expressed the same views and reiterated the need for judicial assistance in enforcing foreign judgments and rulings in Kenya. The Court of Appeal held that decisions issued by foreign courts and tribunals are not automatically recognised or enforceable in Kenya and must be examined by the Kenyan courts to gain recognition and be enforced.

The matter was then brought before the Supreme Court of Kenya.



With regard to the enforcement of foreign judgments, the Supreme Court had to determine ‘whether the locus inspection orders issued by the Scottish Court could be executed in Kenya without intervention by Kenyan authorities.’

However, the Appellants argued that the locus inspection orders were self-executing and did not require an execution process. Instead, inspection orders only required the parties’ compliance. Conversely, the Respondents argued that any decision not delivered by a Kenyan court should be scrutinised by the Kenyan authorities before its execution.

In its decision, the Supreme Court relied on the principle of territoriality, which it referred to as a ‘cornerstone of international law’ [para 51], and further elaborated on the importance of sovereignty. Based on the principle of territoriality, while upholding the principle of sovereignty, the Supreme Court stated that the ‘no judgment of a Court of one country can be executed proprio vigore in another country’ [para 52]. The Supreme Court’s view was that the universal recognition and enforcement of foreign decisions leads to the superiority of foreign nations over national courts. It likewise paves the way for the exposure of arbitrary measures, which are then imposed on the residents of a country against whom measures have been taken abroad. In its statements, the Supreme Court concreted the decision that foreign judgments in Kenya cannot be enforced automatically, but must gain recognition in Kenya through acts of authorisation by the Judiciary, in order to be enforced in Kenya.

The Supreme Court grounded the theoretical basis for enforcing foreign judgments in Kenyan common law as comity. It approved the US approach (Hilton v Guyot) to the effect that: ‘The application of the doctrine of comity means that the recognition of foreign decisions is not out of obligation, but rather out of convenience and utility’ [para 59]. The Court justified comity as:

‘prioritizing citizen protection while taking into account the legitimate interests of foreign claimants. This approach is consistent with the adaptability of international comity as a principle of informed prioritizing national interests rather than absolute obligation, as well as the practical differences between the international and national contexts.’ [para 60]

The Kenyan Supreme Court further established the importance of reciprocity and asserted that the Foreign Judgements (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 2018 was the primary Act governing foreign judgments. The Court recognised that as a constituent country of the United Kingdom, Scotland is a reciprocating country under the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act. However, the orders sought did not fall under the above Act, as locus inspection orders are not on the list of decisions that are expressly mentioned in the Act. Moreover, locus inspection orders are not final orders. Thus, the Supreme Court’s position was that the locus inspection orders could not fall within the ambit of the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, and the trial court and the Court of Appeal were incorrect in extending the application of the Act to these orders.

Consequently, the Supreme Court highlighted the correct instrument to be relied on for the above matter. It was the Supreme Court’s position that although the Civil Procedure Act does not specifically establish a process for the judicial assistance of orders to undertake local investigations, the same process as for judicial assistance in the examination of witnesses could be imitated for local investigation orders. Thus, the Supreme Court stated that:

‘The procedure of foreign courts seeking judicial assistance in Kenya for examination of witnesses was the same procedure to be followed for carrying out local investigations, examination or adjustment accounts; or to make a partition. That procedure was through the issuance of commission rogatoire or letter of request to the High Court in Kenya seeking assistance. That procedure was not immediately apparent. The High Court and Court of Appeal were wrong for extending the spirit of the beyond its application as that was not the appropriate statute that was applicable to the instant case.’ [para 26]

The process is therefore as under the Sections 54 and 55 of the Civil Procedure Act, Order 28 of the Civil Procedure Rules, as well as the Practice Directions to Standardize Practice and Procedures in the High Court made pursuant to Section 10 of the Judicature Act. It entails issuing a commission rogatoire or letter of request to the Registrar of the High Court in Kenya, seeking assistance. This would then trigger the High Court in Kenya to implement the Rules as contained in Order 28 of the Civil Procedure Rules, 2010 [92 – 99].



An interesting point of classification in this case might be whether this was simply one of judicial assistance for the Kenyan Courts to implement Scottish locus inspection orders in its jurisdiction. Seen from this light, it was not a typical case of recognising and enforcing foreign judgment. Nevertheless, the case presented before the Kenyan Courts, including the Kenyan Supreme Court was premised on recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.

The Kenyan Supreme Court has settled the debate on the need for foreign judgments to be recognised in Kenya before they can be enforced. The Court also settled that owing to the principle of finality, interim orders could not fall within the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act. It is owing to this principle of finality that the Supreme Court refused to extend the application of the Act to local investigation orders, but rather proceeded to tackle the latter in the same manner as under the Civil Procedure Act and Civil Procedure Rules.

The Supreme Court was correct in establishing that recognition is necessary before foreign judgments can be enforced in Kenya. The principles upon which the Supreme Court came to this conclusion were also correct since territoriality and sovereignty dictate the same. The Supreme Court set a precedent that the Civil Procedure Act and the Civil Procedure Rules are the correct instruments to be relied upon in issuing orders for local investigations, in contrast to the position of the Court of Appeal, which placed local investigations in the ambit of the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act. The Supreme Court adopted its position based on section 52 of the Civil Procedure Act, which empowers courts to issue commission orders and lists local investigations under commission orders.

This decision is crucial, because not only did the Supreme Court lay to rest any confusion over what should constitute the applicable law for local investigations, it also sets down the procedure for foreign courts seeking judicial assistance in Kenya with regard to all four commission orders, as under the Civil Procedure Act. The Civil Procedure Act is the primary Act governing civil litigation in Kenya, while the Civil Procedure Rules 2010 are the primary subsidiary regulations for the same. Commission orders under this Act are divided into four as highlighted above: examination of witnesses, carrying out local investigations, examination or adjustment accounts, or making a partition.

This decision thus did not only tackle orders of local investigation but concluded the process for all four commission orders as highlighted above. In doing so, it established a uniform process for all four of the commission orders, in accordance with the Primary Act and Rules governing civil litigation in Kenya. Although it may appear that the Supreme Court has stretched the application of the Civil Procedure Rules, 2010 in the same way that the Court of Appeal stretched the application of the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; the Civil Procedure Rules, 2010 are more relevant, given that the rules touch on these four commission orders and are tackled in turn, in the same category, under the Civil Procedure Rules, 2010.  Moreover, while it is true that there is currently a gap in the law as the process for local investigations has not been outlined in the same way that it has been for examination of witnesses, by parity of reasoning the Supreme Court’s reasoning fits, and the logic behind adopting the same process is laudable.

Another interesting aspect of the Supreme Court’s decision is the endorsement of the US approach of comity as the basis of recognising and enforcing foreign judgments in Kenyan common law. This is indeed a radical departure from the common law approach of the theory of obligation, which prevails in other Commonwealth African Countries. In an earlier Case, the Kenyan Court of Appeal in  Jayesh Hasmukh Shah vs Navin Haria & Anor [para 25 – 26] adopted the US principle of comity to recognise and enforce foreign judgments. The principle of comity also formed the sole basis of enforcing a US judgment in Uganda in Christopher Sales v Attorney General, where no reciprocal law exists between the state of origin and the state of recognition. Consequently, it is safe to say that some East African judges are aligning more with the US approach of comity in recognising and enforcing foreign judgments at common law, while many other common law African countries continue to adopt the theory of obligation.

An issue that was not explicitly directed to the Kenyan Supreme Court was that this was a business and human rights case, and one involving the protection of weaker parties. This may have provoked policy reasons from the Court that would have been very useful in developing the law as it relates business and human rights issues, and protection of employees in cross-border matters.

On a final note, the robust reasoning of their Lordships must be commended in this recent Supreme Court decision, given that it adds significant value to the jurisprudence of recognising and enforcing foreign judgments in the Commonwealth as a whole, in East Africa overall, and particularly in Kenya. The comparative approach adopted in this judgment will also prove to be edifying to anyone with an interest in comparative aspects of the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments globally.


The European Parliament’s last plenary session & Private International Law

This post was written by Begüm Kilimcio?lu (PhD researcher), Thalia Kruger (Professor) and Tine Van Hof (Guest professor and postdoctoral researcher), all of the University of Antwerp.

During the last plenary meeting of the current composition of the European Parliament (before the elections of June 2024), which took place from Monday 22 until Thursday 24 April, several proposals relevant to private international law were put to a vote (see the full agenda of votes and debates). All of the regulations discussed here still have to be formally approved by the Council of the European Union before they become binding law, in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure.

It is interesting to note that, while many pieces of new legislation have a clear cross-border impact in civil matters, not all of them explicitly address private international law. While readers of this blog are probably used to the discrepancies this has led to in various fields of the law, it is still worth our consideration.

First, the European Parliament voted on and adopted the proposal for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDDD) with 374 votes in favour, 235 against and 19 abstentions (see also the European Parliament’s Press Release). The text adopted is the result of fierce battles between the Commission, Parliament and the Council and also other stakeholders such as civil society, academics and practitioners. This necessitated compromise and resulted in a watered-down version of the Commission’s initial proposal of 23 February 2022 and does not go as far as envisaged in the European Parliament’s Resolution of 10 March 2021 (see also earlier blog pieces by Jan von Hein, Chris Tomale, Giesela RühlEduardo Álvarez-Armas and Geert van Calster).

The Directive is one of the few instruments worldwide that put legally-binding obligations on multinational enterprises. It lays down obligations for companies regarding their adverse actual and potential human rights and environmental impacts, with respect to their own operation, the operations of their subsidiaries, and the operations carried out by their business partners in the chains of activities. The Directive further stipulates specific measures that companies have to take to prevent, mitigate or bring an end to their actual or potential adverse human rights impacts. Besides national supervisory authorities for the oversight of the implementation of the obligations, the Directive enacts civil liability for victims of corporate harm.

The adopted Directive is more or less silent on private international law. The closest it gets to addressing our field of the law is Article 29(7), placing the duty on Member States to ensure the mandatory nature of civil remedies:

Member States shall ensure that the provisions of national law transposing this Article are of overriding mandatory application in cases where the law applicable to claims to that effect is not the national law of a Member State.

and Recital 90, which is more general:

In order to ensure that victims of human rights and environmental harm can bring an action for damages and claim compensation for damage caused when the company intentionally or negligently failed to comply with the due diligence obligations stemming from this Directive, this Directive should require Member States to ensure that the provisions of national law transposing the civil liability regime provided for in this Directive are of overriding mandatory application in cases where the law applicable to such claims is not the national law of a Member State, as could for instance be the case in accordance with international private law rules when the damage occurs in a third country. This means that the Member States should also ensure that the requirements in respect of which natural or legal persons can bring the claim, the statute of limitations and the disclosure of evidence are of overriding mandatory application. When transposing the civil liability regime provided for in this Directive and choosing the methods to achieve such results, Member States should also be able to take into account all related national rules to the extent they are necessary to ensure the protection of victims and crucial for safeguarding the Member States’ public interests, such as its political, social or economic organisation.

While the text contains references to numerous existing Regulations, Brussels I and Rome I are not among them; not even a precursory or confusing reference as in Recital 147 of the GDRP.

Second, the European Parliament voted on two other proposals that build on and implement the objectives of the European Green Deal and the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. The first is a proposal for a Regulation establishing a framework for setting eco-design requirements for sustainable products with 455 votes in favour, 99 against and 54 abstentions (see also the European Parliament’s Press Release). The Regulation aims to reduce the negative life cycle environmental impacts of products by improving the products’ durability, reusability, upgradability, reparability etc. It sets design requirements for products that will be placed on the market, and establishes a digital product certificate to inform consumers.

This Regulation does not contain a private-international-law type connecting factor for contracts or products. Neither does it expressly elevate its provisions to overriding rules of mandatory law (to at least give us some private international law clue). Its scope is determined by the EU’s internal market. All products that enter the European market have to be in conformity with the requirements of both regulations, also those that are produced in third countries and subsequently imported on the European market (Art. 3(1)). “Products that enter the market” is the connecting factor, or the basis for applying the Regulation as overriding mandatory law. The Regulation is silent on products that exit the market. Hopefully the result will not be that products that were still in the production cycle at the time of entry into force will simply be exported out of the EU.

The third adopted proposal is the Regulation on packaging and packaging waste with 476 votes in favour, 129 against and 24 abstentions (see also the European Parliament’s Press Release). This Regulation aims to reduce the amount of packaging placed on the Union market, ensuring the environmental sustainability of the packaging that is placed on the market, preventing the generation of packaging waste, and the collection and treatment of packaging waste that has been generated. To reach these aims, the regulation’s key measures include phasing out certain single-use plastics by 2030, minimizing so called “forever chemicals” chemicals in food packaging, promoting reuse and refill options, and implementing separate collection and recycling systems for beverage containers by 2029.

Like the Eco-design Regulation, no word on Private International Law, no references. The Regulation refers to packaging “placed on the market” in various provisions (most notably Art. 4(1)) and recitals (e.g. Recitals 10 and 14).

Lastly, the European Parliament approved the proposal for a regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market with an overwhelming majority of 555 votes in favour, 6 against and 45 abstentions (see also the European Parliament’s Press Release). The purpose of this Regulation is to improve the functioning of the internal market while also contributing to the fight against forced labour (including forced child labour). Economic operators are to eliminate forced labour from their operations through the pre-existing due diligence obligations under Union law. It introduces responsible authorities and a database of forced labour risk areas or products.

Just as is the case for the other Regulations, this Regulation does not contain references to private international law instruments, and no explicit reference to instruments in this field, even though the implementation of the Regulation requires vigilance throughout the value chain. It would be correct to assume that this provides overriding mandatory law, as the ban on forced labour is generally accepted to be jus cogens even though the extent of this ban is contentious (see Franklin).

Other proposals that are more clearly in the domain of private international law have not (yet?) reached the finish line. First, in the procedure on the dual proposals in the field of the protection of adults of 31 May 2023, the European Parliament could either adopt them or introduce amendments at first reading. However, these proposals have not reached the plenary level before the end of term and it will thus be for the Conference of Presidents to decide at the beginning of the new parliamentary term whether the consideration of this ‘unfinished business’ can be resumed or continued (Art. 240 Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament).

In the second file, the proposal for a Regulation in matters of parenthood and on the creation of a European Certificate of Parenthood of 7 December 2022 the European Parliament was already consulted and submitted its opinion in a Resolution of 14 December 2023. It is now up to the Council of the European Union to decide unanimously (according to the procedure in Art. 81(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). It can either adopt the amended proposal or amend the proposal once again. In the latter case the Council has to notify or consult (in case of substantial amendments) the European Parliament again.