Online Symposium: An International Jurisdiction for Corporate Atrocity Crimes

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The Harvard International Law Journal Online presents its Online Symposium, “An International Jurisdiction for Corporate Atrocity Crimes.” This special feature series, which gathers short contributions from distinguished academics and practitioners in relevant fields, explore the topic of an international jurisdiction for corporate atrocity crimes. Are international forums to pursue such cases even appropriate or feasible? And if so, what form or forms might such tribunals take?

The first section compiles features that address the problem of having—or currently not having—binding norms for corporate actors and explores the creation and enforcement of such obligations. Ambassador Luis Gallegos and Daniel Uribe recount the lessons from previous attempts to establish international tribunals for human rights abuses by private actors and encourage efforts to establish a legally binding international agreement on business and human rights. Sara McBrearty offers a private sector perspective in describing the primary challenges facing the business and human rights treaty proposed by Ecuador in the U.N. Human Rights Council. Benjamin Ferencz and Federica D’Alessandra write on the need to hold private enterprises accountable through criminal punishment and civil liability as deterrent factors. Finally, Caroline Kaeb explores the feasibility and role of monitorships within a comprehensive regime of criminal penalties.

The second section offers a critique by questioning the feasibility and appropriateness of resorting to international forums for corporate atrocities. Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva explores the effectiveness of creating new international bodies and laws to address corporate atrocities. Gabriela Quijano recommends focusing at the moment on the domestic criminal systems of the home and host states of corporations.

The third section then presents a contrasting viewpoint that analyzes how the International Criminal Court (ICC) might serve in addressing corporate atrocities. Ambassador David Scheffer finds that corporate atrocities can be investigated and prosecuted before the ICC, albeit with complex amendments to the Rome Statute. Jelena Aparac believes that the amendment of the Rome Statute to include corporations, rather than international arbitration, would be the most opportune solution for international justice. Finally, in an interview with Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the first prosecutor of the ICC describes his views on the limits of the ICC’s role in addressing corporate atrocities.

The fourth group of features explores the possibility of providing international jurisdiction for corporate crimes in regional forums. ICC Judge Chang-ho Chung surveys the existing approaches of regional courts toward corporate human rights violations, and discusses the need to establish an Asian Pacific Court of Human Rights. Commissioner Jésus Orozco-Henríquez finds it likely that the Inter-American System will be increasingly open to address the liability of corporations. In light of the promise of the Inter-American System, Ana María Mondragón argues for the Inter-American System of Human Rights to take steps toward enshrining standards of protections against corporate human rights abuses.

The fifth group of features explores the creation of an entirely new international forum to adjudicate corporate atrocities, with Juan Pablo Calderón-Meza proposing alternatives to an international court via arbitration rules driven by civil society. Likewise, Claes Cronstedt and Robert Thompson propose broadening the reach of existing international arbitration framework into an International Arbitration Tribunal on Business and Human Rights that would include human rights disputes involving multinational businesses and victims. In contrast, Maya Steinitz argues that given democratic legitimacy reasons, public adjudication of mass torts is preferable to private sector arbitrations.

We thank our contributors for participating in this issue and hope that the articles contained in this volume will offer another step forward in the pursuit of international justice. We also thank our contributors who were able to attend the launching event at Harvard Law School on April 7, 2016 to present their writings and ideas in person. Videos of the event’s speakers are available with their respective articles.

Introductory remarks to the Online Symposium’s launching event