Promoting Corporate Accountability for Human Rights Abuses

EarthRights International along with Amnesty International, Global Witness, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch launched a new policy-based initiative in 2010, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR). ICAR’s mission is to harnesses the power of the human rights community to identify and promote robust frameworks for corporate accountability, strengthen current measures and defend existing laws, policies and legal precedents.

Outside of monitoring the international corporate accountability arena and acting as a coordinating body for member work, ICAR is currently focused on several campaigns in the U.S.: supporting state and federal conflict minerals legislation; supporting the passage of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA) in the U.S. Congress; and defending the Foreign Corrupts Practices Act (FCPA) against attack from those seeking to weaken this critical protection against international bribery.

Creating and supporting conflict minerals laws

Minerals mined in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are presently funding armed groups that commit horrific violence against workers and local communities, including gender based violence such as sexual slavery, forced recruitment, forced prostitution and rape.  In fact, sexual violence is an active weapon of war used by armed groups in the region. These armed groups finance themselves through trade in four main minerals: tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.  It is these minerals that form the basis of metals used in diverse technological products sold worldwide, including mobile telephones, laptop computers, and digital video recorders.

ICAR is supporting both national regulations and state level laws pertaining to conflict minerals sourced from the Eastern DRC, and working with international partners to introduce legislation in other jurisdictions. 

Supporting the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA)

The United States increasingly relies on private contractors to perform a range of services – from serving food to providing armed security – in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. In Iraq and Afghanistan, private military and security contractors about equal the number of U.S. troops there, and at times have outnumbered them. Although military contractors’ actions are covered by the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (“MEJA”), contractors supporting peace-building operations -- which will be the vast majority of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan going forward – operate in a legal vacuum.

The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act ("CEJA") would close this gap, clarifying and expanding criminal jurisdiction over U.S. contractors fielded abroad for serious crimes committed while employed by any department or agency other than the Armed Forces. CEJA would also provide the Justice Department with the manpower and financial resources to increase oversight and accountability by establishing and funding units to investigate allegations of criminal offenses committed by contractors.

ICAR welcomed the introduction of CEJA earlier this year, and is actively working with Members of Congress to pass this bill into law in 2011.

Defending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

The FCPA makes it illegal for U.S. companies and companies operating in the U.S. to bribe foreign officials, and has been a critical tool to combat international bribery since its passage in 1977. The FCPA is currently under attack by major U.S. corporations and the business lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is seeking amendments that critically weaken the effectiveness of this law in curbing the incidence of bribery. ICAR understands the strong connection between corruption and the fight to promote and protect human rights, and is working with anti-corruption advocates to defend this law from attack.