Should there be a death penalty for corporations severely violating human rights? Or would house arrest be preferable? These and many other contemporary questions were discussed the passed three days during an international conference on transnational corporations and human rights in Berlin, Germany.
There currently exists no binding mechanism (hard law= treaties or international agreements which result in legally enforceable commitments for countries and other international subjects) at the international level ensuring that companies are held accountable for any human rights violations they commit or in which they are complicit. Business is global, however law is national.
It is moral obligation, corporate code of conduct, that can ensure that profit is not made at the expense of people and the environment anywhere. These so-called soft law instruments, or as Peter Weiss of the Center for Constitutional Rights calls them “emerging law instruments”, are usually considered as non-binding agreements.
Due to their non binding nature, in today’s money oriented world of business, many cases exist where companies act in the sole interest of profit, destroying the environment, workforce and energy and thus ultimately harming themselves.
Often people in the rich world are unaware that their comfortable lifestyle may be based on the suffering of others, has its origin in violence. The acts for example that have been committed on indigenous Wayúu and Afro-Colombian lands in Colombia by El Cerrejón, one of the most important coal mines in the world, could be considered as war crimes. To expand coal exports Cerrejon’s coal mine bulldozers destroyed the community in 2001-2002. Houses were demolished. Blood was shed. No one listened to the indigenous voices, Wayúu leaders state.
Surely acts like this need to be condemned by the world.