[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism [official website] has laid out plans to establish a global tribunal to prosecute private companies accused of human rights abuses. In an interview [text] last week with the Commonwealth Secretariat [advocacy website], Dr. Martin Scheinin [academic profile] said that his proposed "World Court of Human Rights" would enforce judgments on multinational companies to demand compensation for victims. Calling other options to hold companies and organizations responsible for human rights violations insufficient, Scheinin stressed the need for a formal procedure to do so. The Finnish international law expert proposed the idea for the world court because he remains unconvinced about whether international disputes can be properly dealt with in national courts. His full proposal, due to be released later this month, is to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. Scheinin addressed his concerns with globalization, stating:
To me, globalisation is a huge process of de-regulation, where the protective shield of national legislation falls away and exposes societies and individuals within them to the direct effect of multinationals and other international agents. Because of this phenomenon called globalisation, multinational corporations are now exercising powers that only states possessed previously.
Stating that human rights concerns are often focused on the rights of terrorist suspects, Scheinin highlighted the importance of addressing the human rights of victims.
US courts have statutory authority to hear human rights cases brought against US companies by foreign citizens under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) [28 USC § 1350 text]. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] reversed [JURIST report] a district court opinion, reviving two lawsuits brought by Nigerian families against Pfizer under the ATCA. Last year, a class of plaintiffs from South Africa brought a suit [JURIST report] against US companies under the ATCA based on alleged complicity in perpetuating the oppression of the South African black majority.