IRAdvocates had an extremely busy year in 2020. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis and the insane politics in the U.S., we continued our fight to hold multinational companies accountable for human rights violations in the global economy. This year much of our work was focused on child slavery and forced child labor. Among other things, on behalf of six former child slaves, we went to the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold legal accountability in our legal case against Nestle and Cargill, two of the large cocoa producers who continue to profit from child slaves harvesting cocoa in Cote D’Ivoire. At the December 1, 2020 oral argument, the companies actually argued to the Supreme Court that corporations cannot be liable under international law for child slavery! We made our case to the Court that corporate liability for child slavery is essential to protecting children like our six John Doe clients from the brutality of slavery:
While our original case is pending against Nestle and Cargill, we continue to do research and are preparing a new legal case joining Mars, Hershey and other large companies with Nestle and Cargill as Defendants. We will be using the recently amended Trafficking Victims Protection Act and represent eight recently-escaped child slaves. This new case is necessary because these companies regularly acknowledge there is rampant child labor in their cocoa harvesting operations, but they do nothing to change their practices and merely keep falsely promising consumers they will stop profiting from child labor. Each time I travel to Cote D’Ivoire, I meet large numbers of children who were trafficked from Mali and Burkina Faso to then work and live as slaves harvesting cocoa. Here are two boys who were trafficked from Burkina Faso. I met them performing hazardous work on a cocoa plantation producing for a Cargill cooperative in Cote D’Ivoire:
As a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Labor recently found, there are 1.6 million children harvesting cocoa today: http://iradvocates.org/news/nestle/department-labor-study-child-labor. Rather than work with us to create a viable monitoring, certification, and remediation program in the cocoa sector, Nestle and Cargill continue to fight us in court. We will pursue all available avenues to force these powerful companies to finally, well after slavery was made illegal in the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865, to stop profiting from child slaves.
This year we also filed a new complaint against Apple, Tesla, Google, Microsoft and Dell under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act for contracting to buy cobalt required for their products’ batteries from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This Blood Cobalt was mined by child miners who are regularly maimed and killed when extremely fragile tunnels inevitably collapse. Here is one of our clients, John Doe 3, who at age 17, was buried alive in a tunnel collapse and then woke up in a hospital with his crushed leg amputated:
We just filed our briefs in opposition to the five companies’ motion to dismiss the case: http://iradvocates.org/case-update/cobalt-mining-case/child-cobalt-miner.... They argued that they cannot be liable because they merely purchase cobalt. However, we demonstrate that they know the cobalt is mined by children who are frequently killed or maimed, they claim to have policies that require them to monitor to prevent any form of child labor, and they have direct contracts with mining companies that they know are using child labor. We should have a decision in early 2021, and if the Court allows the case to go forward, we will get documents and testimony from the managers and executives of the companies regarding their knowledge of and profiting from this extreme abuse of child miners.
We are truly taking on the giants of the global economy, and we need your help to see this through. Can you please join the effort by making a donation to the IRAdvocates that will directly support our legal efforts against companies profiting from child slavery and forced child labor? If you want to help stop corporate slavery, please click here to make a tax deductible contribution: https://iradvocates.nationbuilder.com/donate
Alternatively, please send your contribution to our efforts to end child slavery to International Rights Advocates, 621 Maryland Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002.
Thanks very much and I look forward to keeping you advised of our progress in 2021,