Please see original release issued by the Human Rights Law Centre here.
1 September 2020
Human rights and legal organisations today welcomed proposals by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to strengthen Australia’s corporate criminal laws in relation to human rights abuses committed by Australian companies overseas.
The ALRC’s review of Australian corporate criminal laws, published yesterday, recommends that the Australian Government introduce a “failure to prevent” offence for serious transnational human rights offences by companies such as forced labour and trafficking.
The ALRC also recommends the Government consider a range of further measures to enhance accountability for transnational corporate human rights abuses, including expanding the Modern Slavery Act to include other human rights abuses, introducing a mandatory human rights due diligence regime, developing a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights and creating a specialist investigations unit to investigate and prosecute transnational human rights abuses.
Welcoming the proposals, Keren Adams, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said:
“In recent years, Australian companies operating overseas have been linked to modern slavery, land grabs and environmental destruction, public health scandals and prolonged unlawful detention and abuse. Yet prosecutions for these human rights violations are rarely if ever pursued.
“The Australian Government must act urgently to prevent these harms and ensure companies are properly held to account for their actions. It is clear that voluntary measures are not sufficient to generate meaningful change. We strongly endorse the ALRC’s calls for a “failure to prevent” offence which places the onus back on companies to ensure their overseas operations are upholding the same human rights standards we would expect from them here in Australia”.
Rawan Arraf, Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, commented:
“It is critical that when companies are involved in serious human rights violations overseas they can be prosecuted here in Australia. Otherwise we risk entrenching a culture of corporate impunity. We support the ALRC’s recommendations and urge the Australian Government to establish a specialised investigations unit for transnational corporate crimes, as many other countries have done”.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Nowhere to Turn: Addressing Australian corporate abuses overseas report, published in 2018, highlighted ten cases of serious transnational human rights abuses linked to Australian companies and the uphill battle faced by victims trying to pursue justice.
The HRLC and ACIJ made a joint submission to the ALRC’s inquiry calling for a range of measures to strengthen accountability for transnational human rights violations by companies.
A copy of the HRLC and ACIJ submission can be found here.