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ECCJ comments regarding Statement by COE Commissioner Nils Muižnieks on Business and Human Rights

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ECCJ welcomes the statement made by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, on the subject of business and human rights.

We appreciate the Commissioner’s acknowledgement of the major impact corporate activity has on human rights around the world, of the various and wide-spread instances of related company malpractice, and on the need to implement robust mechanisms to ensure both the protection of human rights and access to justice and remedy for victims of corporate abuse.

We further agree that states, as “ultimate duty bearers” in safeguarding human rights “must take steps to prevent, punish and redress such abuses through legislation and regulation”. These steps include a thorough implementation of the UNGPs through robust National Action Plans that include legal and policy measures, and an active engagement in the UN process to develop a legally binding instrument on business and human rights. We second the Commissioner’s belief that this engagement “should not discourage the active implementation of existing international and regional standards on business and human rights”.

In line with UNGPs provisions, the business responsibility to respect human rights and carry out due diligence in “identifying and addressing (…) impacts of business practice” is as important in achieving a higher level of corporate accountability, and rightfully highlighted in the Commissioner’s statement.

Equally, we appreciate the issue of access to remedy for individuals or groups of people being identified as “a critical element of the framework”, and the mention of States’ duty to “investigate, punish and redress” and assure access to “judicial and non-judicial mechanisms”, and that of businesses’ duty to “set up complaint mechanisms to resolve early warnings”.

The Statement also promotes the Council of Europe Recommendation on human rights and business, which came out this March. ECCJ believes that if adequately implemented, the Recommendation can contribute to a more effective UNGPs implementation by States, an enhanced system of legal accountability of business enterprises involved in human rights abuses, and improved access to effective remedy for those who suffer harm.

More ECCJ comments on the COE Recommendation can be found at this link.

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