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Home States' Duty to Protect Human Rights - To what extent is Sweden requiring Swedish corporations to comply with human rights extraterritorially?

Jönsson, Gisela LU (2020) JURM02 20201
Department of Law
Faculty of Law
Abstract
It has been argued that multinational corporations benefit from impunity when it comes to human rights violations due to inadequate corporate regulation in host states as well on the international level. Thus, there are three purposes of this thesis: first to examine to what extent states’ duty to protect human rights can be utilised to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations in their global activities. In this context, the thesis examines to what extent states’ due diligence obligations can be extended to corporate nationals’ extraterritorial activities. If that is the case, states would be more implied to regulate corporate activities in order to avoid liability under international law. Second, human rights due... (More)
It has been argued that multinational corporations benefit from impunity when it comes to human rights violations due to inadequate corporate regulation in host states as well on the international level. Thus, there are three purposes of this thesis: first to examine to what extent states’ duty to protect human rights can be utilised to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations in their global activities. In this context, the thesis examines to what extent states’ due diligence obligations can be extended to corporate nationals’ extraterritorial activities. If that is the case, states would be more implied to regulate corporate activities in order to avoid liability under international law. Second, human rights due diligence-legislation is examined as an example of how corporate nationals’ extraterritorial activities can be regulated. Third, the thesis uses all previous information to examine to what extent Sweden is requiring Swedish corporations to respect human rights in their activities abroad.

In order to answer the research questions, current state of international law is established through studying the sources of international law - primarily human rights treaties, jurisprudence and other legitimate sources of interpretation. By applying the doctrine of state responsibility, states responsibility for corporate actions is examined.

The thesis concludes that it is well known under international law that states have a duty within its territory to protect individuals’ human rights against corporate-related harm. States can fail their obligation to protect in two ways; (1) when a human rights violation committed by a corporation is attributed to the state and (2) when the state fails to protect individuals’ human rights. In regard to the former, state attribution is hard to establish since multinational enterprises (MNCs) rarely have a close relationship to the home state and since the degree of control the state must exercise (effective control) is set very high. One way of mending that would be to lower the threshold to overall control. In regard to the later, states have a due diligence obligation. Due diligence requires states to take all reasonable measures to prevent human rights violations, to conduct investigations in a serious manner and make sure victims of human rights violations have access to effective remedies. If states fail to do that, states might be held liable for failure to protect.

International customary law and non-judicial monitoring human rights bodies present compelling arguments for recognizing extraterritorial due diligence obligations to protect human rights. According to the do not harm-principle states are required to prevent actors from using their territory to conduct business which cause harm on another state’s territory. In addition, the General Comments by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) suggest that State Parties are under an obligation to regulate corporate extraterritorial activities. However, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has not yet recognized the duty to protect extraterritorially based on corporations’ nationality. In conclusion, states due diligence obligations do, to a certain extent, increase corporate compliance since states risk being responsible if not regulating corporations’ activities. In the context of economic, social and cultural rights the duty to protect contributes to a greater extent to corporate compliance compared to the ECHR.

The thesis concludes that Swedish domestic law lacks an adequate regulation on corporate impact on human rights in their extraterritorial activities. Moreover, improvements could be done either by modifying the sustainability report or by introducing human rights due diligence legislation. By not regulating Swedish corporations’ global activities, Sweden risks being portrayed as indifferent when it comes to making sure that its companies respect human rights globally. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Det kan hävdas att multinationella företag undviker ansvar för mänskliga rättighetskränkningar på grund av otillräcklig nationell reglering så väl som folkrättsliga bestämmelser. Denna uppsats har därmed utformat tre syften: först ämnar uppsatsen att undersöka i vilken utsträckning staters skyldighet för att skydda mänskliga rättigheter kan minska företags straffrihet för mänskliga rättighetskränkningar. I detta avseende undersöks bland annat huruvida staters due diligence-ansvar även omfattar företags extraterritoriella verksamheter. Är så fallet, kommer stater vara mer benägna att reglera företags agerande för att undvika att hållas själva ansvariga. För det andra lyfter uppsatsen upp human rights due diligence-lagstiftning som ett... (More)
Det kan hävdas att multinationella företag undviker ansvar för mänskliga rättighetskränkningar på grund av otillräcklig nationell reglering så väl som folkrättsliga bestämmelser. Denna uppsats har därmed utformat tre syften: först ämnar uppsatsen att undersöka i vilken utsträckning staters skyldighet för att skydda mänskliga rättigheter kan minska företags straffrihet för mänskliga rättighetskränkningar. I detta avseende undersöks bland annat huruvida staters due diligence-ansvar även omfattar företags extraterritoriella verksamheter. Är så fallet, kommer stater vara mer benägna att reglera företags agerande för att undvika att hållas själva ansvariga. För det andra lyfter uppsatsen upp human rights due diligence-lagstiftning som ett exempel på reglering av företags extraterritoriella verksamheter. För det tredje undersöks i vilken mån Sverige kräver att svenska företag respekterar mänskliga rättigheter i sin internationella verksamhet.

För att besvara frågeställningarna måste gällande rätt fastställas vilket görs genom att undersöka folkrättens rättskällor – fokus kommer att ligga på mänskliga rättighetskonventioner, rättspraxis och uttalanden från FN:s övervakningskommittéer. Staters ansvar för företags mänskliga rättigheter undersökts genom att tillämpa statsansvarsreglerna.

Uppsatsen drar slutsatsen att det är tydligt etablerat inom folkrätten att stater har en skyldighet att skydda mänskliga rättigheter gentemot företag inom statens territorium. Stater kan bryta mot sina förpliktelser på två olika sätt; (1) när en kränkning, som företaget begår, kan tillskrivas staten och (2) när staten misslyckas med att skydda individer mot en rättighetskräkning. Beträffande det förstnämnda, kan en handling av multinationella företag sällan tillskrivas stater eftersom multinationella företag är väldigt självständiga och graden av kontroll (effektiv kontroll) som staten måste utöva över företaget sällan kan uppnås. Ett sätt att sänka tröskeln till statsansvar kan vara att sänka graden av kontroll till overall control. Beträffande det senare har stater due diligence-skyldigheter. Due diligence innebar att stater måste vidta alla rimliga åtgärder för att förhindra kränkningar, erbjuda offer tillgång till effektiva rättsmedel och genomföra utredningar på ett seriöst sätt. I de fall stater misslyckades att vidta due diligence åtgärder hålls staten ansvarig.

Det finns starka argument för att en extraterritoriell skyldighet att skydda mänskliga rättigheter ska erkännas med stöd av internationell sedvanerätt och FN:s övervakningskommittéer. Enligt do not harm-principen får stater inte upplåta sitt territorium till verksamheter som skadar ett annan lands intressen. Dessutom står det klart i flera allmänna kommentarer av Kommitteen för ekonomiska, social och kulturella rättigheter (CESCR) att medlemsländer är skyldiga att reglera företags extraterritoriella verksamhet. Dock har Europeiska domstolen för de mänskliga rättigheterna inte erkänt denna skyldighet. Sammanfattningsvis, kan därmed staters due diligence skyldigheter minska straffriheten för rättighetskränkningar av företag, särskilt när det kommer till ekonomiska, social och kulturella rättigheter. I mindre utsträckning när det kommer till EKMR.

Svensk lagstiftning saknar på flera sätt en adekvat reglering av företags negativa mänskliga rättighetspåverkan i deras utländska verksamheter. I uppsatsen framhålls att flera förbättringar bör göras. Antingen kan Sverige modifiera hållbarhetsrapportringen i årsredovisningslagen eller införa lagstiftning som kräver att företag genomför due diligence. Sverige riskerar att framställas som likgiltig inför företags-relaterade kränkningar av mänskliga rättigheter om ändringar inte genomförs. (Less)
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author
Jönsson, Gisela LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM02 20201
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Public International Law
language
English
id
9010432
date added to LUP
2020-06-18 10:11:29
date last changed
2020-06-18 10:11:29
@misc{9010432,
  abstract     = {It has been argued that multinational corporations benefit from impunity when it comes to human rights violations due to inadequate corporate regulation in host states as well on the international level. Thus, there are three purposes of this thesis: first to examine to what extent states’ duty to protect human rights can be utilised to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations in their global activities. In this context, the thesis examines to what extent states’ due diligence obligations can be extended to corporate nationals’ extraterritorial activities. If that is the case, states would be more implied to regulate corporate activities in order to avoid liability under international law. Second, human rights due diligence-legislation is examined as an example of how corporate nationals’ extraterritorial activities can be regulated. Third, the thesis uses all previous information to examine to what extent Sweden is requiring Swedish corporations to respect human rights in their activities abroad. 

In order to answer the research questions, current state of international law is established through studying the sources of international law - primarily human rights treaties, jurisprudence and other legitimate sources of interpretation. By applying the doctrine of state responsibility, states responsibility for corporate actions is examined. 

The thesis concludes that it is well known under international law that states have a duty within its territory to protect individuals’ human rights against corporate-related harm. States can fail their obligation to protect in two ways; (1) when a human rights violation committed by a corporation is attributed to the state and (2) when the state fails to protect individuals’ human rights. In regard to the former, state attribution is hard to establish since multinational enterprises (MNCs) rarely have a close relationship to the home state and since the degree of control the state must exercise (effective control) is set very high. One way of mending that would be to lower the threshold to overall control. In regard to the later, states have a due diligence obligation. Due diligence requires states to take all reasonable measures to prevent human rights violations, to conduct investigations in a serious manner and make sure victims of human rights violations have access to effective remedies. If states fail to do that, states might be held liable for failure to protect. 

International customary law and non-judicial monitoring human rights bodies present compelling arguments for recognizing extraterritorial due diligence obligations to protect human rights. According to the do not harm-principle states are required to prevent actors from using their territory to conduct business which cause harm on another state’s territory. In addition, the General Comments by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) suggest that State Parties are under an obligation to regulate corporate extraterritorial activities. However, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has not yet recognized the duty to protect extraterritorially based on corporations’ nationality. In conclusion, states due diligence obligations do, to a certain extent, increase corporate compliance since states risk being responsible if not regulating corporations’ activities. In the context of economic, social and cultural rights the duty to protect contributes to a greater extent to corporate compliance compared to the ECHR. 

The thesis concludes that Swedish domestic law lacks an adequate regulation on corporate impact on human rights in their extraterritorial activities. Moreover, improvements could be done either by modifying the sustainability report or by introducing human rights due diligence legislation. By not regulating Swedish corporations’ global activities, Sweden risks being portrayed as indifferent when it comes to making sure that its companies respect human rights globally.},
  author       = {Jönsson, Gisela},
  keyword      = {Public International Law},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Home States' Duty to Protect Human Rights - To what extent is Sweden requiring Swedish corporations to comply with human rights extraterritorially?},
  year         = {2020},
}