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Access to Justice

Under international law, victims of human rights and environmental abuses are entitled to an effective remedy. However, when affected by business-related impacts, victims outside Europe face multiple barriers that prevent them from gaining access to judicial remedy.

This happens both in victims' home State, where the abuse occurred, and in the European States where multinational enterprises are established. The EU and its Member States have failed to fulfil their duty to ensure human rights protection for those harmed by business activities. Impunity prevails, having a considerable impact on the effective exercise of human rights worldwide.

State of play – EU activity

European companies’ involvement in human rights and environmental violations is not marginal. Corporate activities have major implications for individuals and communities across the world. Between 2005 and 2013, more than half of the companies listed on the UK FTSE 100, French CAC 40 and German DAX 30 stock exchanges indexes were identified in concerns or allegations regarding human rights abuses.

When such violations occur, it is vital that companies are held to account and affected people and communities are able to seek redress. In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which articulate the State duty to ensure effective remedies for victims of human rights violations.

However the third pillar on access to remedies has received the least attention and much remains to be done. Research has shown that the existence of legal, procedural and institutional barriers still prevents victims of corporate abuses from gaining access to an effective remedy in home countries.

Improved access to remedy contributes to a culture of respect for human rights and the environment. It leads to better corporate practice. It allows addressing concrete cases and putting an end to widespread impunity that leaves victims powerless. Therefore it is urgent that the EU and its Member States stop avoiding the discussion and take action to overcome the challenges faced by victims in pursuing redress through EU courts.  Policy measures should address the following barriers to remedy: financial constraints and restrictive procedural burdens associated with pursuing remedies through the courts; the absence of a clear human rights due diligence standard in civil justice systems, and laws providing for the reversal of the burden of proof and/or establishing common standards for the disclosure of evidence; lack of clarity regarding the application of EU rules on private international law.

Addressing these obstacles within the EU should come with an engagement to actively participate in further normative developments at international level, such as the UN process to develop a legally binding instrument on business and human rights, initiated in the UN Human Rights Council. The UNGPs implementation and the participation in negotiations on a binding instrument on Business and Human Rights are complementary and both are essential pathways to achieving greater protection against business-related human rights violations across the globe.


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Key issues

    • Access to judicial remedies
    • Collective redress
    • Access to evidence
    • Brussels I / Rome II regulations
    • Duty of Care
    • Parent company liability
    • UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights

Latest articles

News / Dec 2, 2019

Over 100 civil society organisations demand human rights and environmental due diligence legislation

News / Oct 19, 2018

Day 5 of negotiations for a UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights

News / Oct 15, 2018

Civil Society call for constructive treaty negotiations

News / Oct 11, 2018

ECCJ’s view on a binding UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights

News / Sep 6, 2018

Proposed EU litigation fund must cover business & human rights cases

News / Jan 9, 2018

ECCJ Press Release on Collective Redress

News / Jan 8, 2018

Civil Society Joint Statement on Collective Redress

News / Dec 21, 2017

ECCJ position paper on EU Collective Redress

News / Dec 4, 2017

ECCJ makes key proposals concerning parent companies’ duty of care and collective redress to the Commission and the Parliament

News / Nov 2, 2017

UN Treaty Negotiations Day 5 and outcome: UN treaty process on business and human rights moving into a new phase

News / Sep 26, 2017

How the UN treaty on Business and Human Rights can improve access to justice for victims, 26 Sept 2017

News / Aug 23, 2017

A critical assessment of National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights (2017 update)

News / Apr 11, 2017

EU Fundamental Rights Agency publishes Opinion on access to remedy

News / Mar 24, 2017

Last hurdle overcome for landmark legislation: French Corporate duty of vigilance law gets green light from Constitutional Council

News / Mar 14, 2017

Joint statement in support of the French corporate duty of vigilance law

News / Mar 7, 2017

Human Rights & Business EU Parliament Event: Highlights and live-stream recording

Publication / Feb 23, 2017

French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law: FAQ

News / Feb 23, 2017

French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law: FAQ

News / Feb 21, 2017

France adopts corporate duty of vigilance law

News / Jan 11, 2017

Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the US release Business and Human Rights National Action Plans

News / Dec 15, 2016

Update: European and US National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights

News / Nov 16, 2016

The People of Ecuador versus Chevron: Sherpa asks ICC to implement jurisdiction extension

News / Nov 2, 2016

UN Treaty Talks Day 5: Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated

News / Nov 2, 2016

ECCJ talks access to justice and UN Treaty on Belgian radio

News / Oct 28, 2016

UN Treaty Talks Day 3 and 4: From business as usual to enhanced corporate responsibility for human rights

News / Oct 25, 2016

UN Treaty talks Day 1: The EU is in the room, but is that enough?

News / Oct 25, 2016

European Parliament votes for stronger corporate accountability

News / Oct 24, 2016

Corporate accountability: Is the EU ready to listen?

News / Oct 24, 2016

#StopCorporateAbuse: Why we need rights for people and rules for business

Media / Oct 21, 2016

Corporate accountability: Is the EU ready to listen?

News / Oct 12, 2016

Access to justice for victims of corporate abuse: Extraterritorial jurisdiction in civil litigation

News / Oct 5, 2016

Rights for people, Rules for business! Sign the petition!

Publication / Oct 3, 2016

Legal Seminar Report – UN Treaty

News / Sep 16, 2016

Contribution to the Italian Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

News / Sep 16, 2016

New paper published on the efforts behind a UN Treaty on business and human rights

News / Aug 19, 2016

Côte d’Ivoire: Trafigura unrepentant 10 years after toxic waste dump

News / Aug 4, 2016

Draft available for Italian National Action Plan for UNGPs' implementation

News / Jun 16, 2016

Business & Human Rights: The world is still waiting for action

Media / Jun 16, 2016

Business and human rights: The world is still waiting for action

News / Apr 29, 2016

New recommendations on National Action Plans on Business & Human Rights

News / Apr 12, 2016

Amnesty International exposes abuse of World Cup workers in Qatar

News / Mar 3, 2016

Duty of care of transnational corporations: waiting no longer acceptable

Case Study / Feb 11, 2016

Villagers jailed after opposing Bolloré’s plantations in Sierra Leone

Case Study / Dec 18, 2015

Hague Court accepts competence over case against Shell in Nigeria

News / Nov 17, 2015

The Better Regulation Agenda and what it means for Corporate Accountability

News / Nov 13, 2015

GUE/NGL EU Parliament Event on UN Treaty on Business & Human Rights

News / Oct 23, 2015

Sherpa launches petition for official investigation into Auchan’s role at Rana Plaza

News / Sep 24, 2015

Bangladesh: Government inspectors continue to enjoy immunity

News / Sep 3, 2015

UN binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights: ECCJ report

News / Aug 10, 2015

Cambodia: 60,000 new victims of government land grabbing

Case Study / Jul 30, 2015

UK company services and equipment linked to human rights violations

News / Jul 8, 2015

UN Treaty on Business & Human Rights negotiations Day 2

News / Jul 7, 2015

UN Treaty on Business & Human Rights negotiations Day 1

News / Jul 3, 2015

Business and Human Rights: Coherent action needed at national, regional and international level

News / Jun 3, 2015

Dutch and German development banks failed to comply with environmental and human rights standards in Panama

News / May 21, 2015

Water contamination near Glencore copper mine in Peru:

News / Mar 19, 2015

Recommendations for the EU Garment Flagship Initiative

News / Mar 16, 2015

Paying the price for clothing factory disasters in south Asia

News / Mar 13, 2015

North Mara victims receive compensation

News / Mar 3, 2015

Environmental Justice Atlas available

News / Feb 27, 2015

NGO mobilisation ahead of negotiations on corporate accountability treaty

News / Feb 18, 2015

Doors closing on judicial remedies for corporate human rights abuse

News / Feb 12, 2015

Affaire Amesys : les victimes attendent des avancées concrètes

News / Feb 9, 2015

ECCJ calls the French Parliament to adopt law on parent company duty of vigilance

News / Feb 9, 2015

ECCJ encourage l’Assemblée Nationale française à adopter la loi sur le devoir de vigilance de entreprises

News / Feb 9, 2015

ECCJ report out on EU and Member States actions to tackle barriers to justice

News / Dec 9, 2014

Legal guide for communities seeking environmental justice

Case Study / Mar 7, 2014

Human rights violations in the Cambodian garment sector

Publication / Nov 30, 2012

Human Rights Due Diligence: The Role of States
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ECCJ Secretariat
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Telephone number: +32 (0) 2 893 10 26