The global effort to protect workers and hold corporations accountable for their business practices has taken many avenues, including monitoring, strengthening international laws and enforcement mechanisms, and social labeling initiatives. One of the newest avenues non-profits have taken to promote corporate accountability has been through legal advocacy. IRAdvoactes is continuing the work started through the International Labor Rights Fund to use international human rights law to require multinational companies to comply with internationally recognized worker rights. Specifically, IRAdvocates is using these cases to establish a precedent by basing its legal proceedings on the Alien Tort Claims Act (ACTA), a law aimed at protecting the nation's international reputation by enabling non-citizens to use federal courts to hold Americans accountable for violations of international law. These cases seek to send a strong message to corporations: it is simply not acceptable to profit from human rights violations.
IRAdvocates provides a solid legal resource to all types of human rights activists seeking to hold governments and corporations accountable through the US legal system. Future litigation in this area will also give priority to cases that, while within the general accepted parameters, represent an incremental expansion of present jurisprudence.
Our New Challenges to Impunity Program seeks to litigate cutting edge cases that either provide a new theory for holding governments and corporations liable for human rights violations.
IRAdvocates is currently involved in several cases including:
Bridgestone-Firestone: IRAdvocates filed a lawsuit in November 2005 on behalf of adults and children who work and live on the Firestone Plantation in Liberia. The suit charges that Bridgestone Firestone and several affiliated companies forced workers to meet impossible quotas and benefited from the widespread use of unlawful child labor.
Chiquita: In June 2007, IRAdvocates filed suit against Chiquita on behalf of the families of 173 workers murdered by paramilitaries. The suit alleges that Chiquita’s complicity in the murders, as in order to force workers to quit a union or their job, to stop pressing legitimate grievances, or to accept poor working conditions, the corporation turned to the paramilitaries who acted by means of intimidation, threats, abductions, torture and murder for “protection.”
Coca-Cola I: IRAdvocates advanced the legal efforts it began with the United Steelworkers Union in 2001 to hold Coca-Cola accountable for the murder and torture of trade union leaders in Colombia.
Coca-Cola II: In 2005, 105 workers at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Istanbul organized a lengthy sit-down strike in front of the main offices of Coca-Cola in Turkey. While leaders of the workers were meeting with senior management for the company, the company ordered Turkish riot police to attack the workers who were by all accounts peacefully assembled, many with their spouses and children. IRAdvocates filed suit on behalf of the victims for torture under the ATCA, as well as battery, assault, emotional distress under New York state law.
Daimler Chrysler: IRAdvocates filed suit in 2005 on behalf of the families of individuals “disappeared” during the Argentine “Dirty War” for Daimler Chrysler’s complicity in these extra-judicial killings.
IRAdvocates understands that its present litigation strategy, based on ATCA in US courts, has limits and for that reason we are developing new theories to use in US courts and in the courts of other nations. Through this new work we hope to contribute to opening new avenues toward accountability for human rights violations.
The Case of UNOCAL
Since mid-1997, the attorneys at IRAdvocates have served as lead counsel in a lawsuit brought in Los Angeles by numerous individuals who were conscripted into unpaid forced labor to build a pipeline for Unocal together in a joint venture with the military regime of Burma, SLORC. Read about the settlement in September 2004!
— Chris Saeger, "Strengthening Rule of Law Through Aid for Human Rights Litigation in National Courts: A Case Study of Oil Multinational Corporations Complicit in Human Rights Violations in Sudan and Nigeria (December 2007)
— Terry Collingsworth, "Using the Alien Tort Claims Act to Introduce the Rule of Law to the Global Economy (2005)