Press Release / Jan. 10, 2011

Global Witness proposes new framework that could close legal loopholes which allow corporate crimes in conflict zones

“Simply Criminal: Targeting Rogue Business in Violent Conflict”, a new briefing paper published by Global Witness today, shows how the prosecutions of rogue businesses operating in situations of widespread violence can be made easier. Through the various legal actions it has brought against companies, Global Witness has identified a range of loopholes that currently allow such businesses to go unpunished. The proposed framework addresses these loopholes and calls on prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and other relevant authorities to pursue companies involved in violent crimes.

 “There are far too many examples of companies which are complicit in or profit from appalling human rights abuses in conflict areas – but no successful prosecutions to date,“ said Andie Lambe of Global Witness. “There is no moral, legal or economic argument for this status quo. For it to change, we must equip prosecutors and the courts with the tools to bring the guilty to justice and discourage other companies from becoming involved in these appalling crimes.”

Global Witness and other organisations have repeatedly highlighted cases where rogue businesses have exploited violent situations, often cooperating with abusive governments and public or private security forces to gain control of lucrative natural resource trades. Courts around the world have been challenged to pursue those involved, but only a handful of business people have been convicted, while no company has ever been successfully prosecuted.

“When the proper legal tools are not in place or fail to be used, the cost is measured in human lives,” said Lambe. “International stability is undermined while legitimate business, required to stimulate growth and opportunity, is driven away and predatory business comes in.”

Simply Criminal seeks to end this culture of impunity by clarifying and strengthening existing laws, and proposes a new measure to deal with businesses that traffic in goods sourced from conflict zones. This innovative framework utilises domestic anti-corruption and international criminal law, to tackle corporate human rights abuses. It sets clear common standards for companies and empowers prosecutors to hold them accountable when they fail to meet these standards. The proposed framework would:

1)      Specify in law where and how existing laws addressing murder, torture, rape, pillage and other war crimes could be applied to business entities.

2)      Legally strengthen and clarify existing measures which prohibit businesses providing assistance such as transport, weapons, equipment, or logistical support to those who commit violent crimes.

3)      Introduce new laws which forbid companies from dealing in conflict goods.

“This concise and credible framework would clear the way for prosecutions – but only if coupled with genuine commitments from Ministries of Justice and the legal profession to hold businesses to account,” said Lambe.


For more information please contact: Oliver Courtney on +44 (0)207 492 5848/+44 (0)7815 731 889 [email protected], Mark Taylor on +47 97 583 650.