Advancing accountability for corporate complicity in authoritarian regimes’ human rights violations
Prof Leigh Payne and Dr Gabriel Pereira are partnering with the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and Abogados y Abogadas del Noroeste Argentino en Derechos Humanos y Estudios Sociales (ANDHES) to raise the global costs of corporate human rights violations and enhance the legitimacy of those engaged in accountability efforts through research, litigation and public policy strategies.
With the notable exception of the Nuremberg trials, most countries have not been successful in holding businesses accountable for complicity in human rights violations. Argentina is also an exception. Its ongoing criminal and civil trials for corporate complicity in the 1976-1983 dictatorship represent 64% of all criminal and 31% of all pending trials for such activity in the world. Despite these remarkable efforts, Argentina’s progress faces numerous obstacles: businesses’ substantial resources to fight accountability; low public awareness about these issues; evidentiary challenges due to the time lapse since the dictatorship; and legal practitioners’ limited time and skills to effectively develop accountability strategies. Working in partnership with the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and Abogados y Abogadas del Noroeste Argentino en Derechos Humanos y Estudios Sociales (ANDHES), Professor Leigh Payne and Dr Gabriel Pereira of the University of Oxford have been conducting user-led research to investigate the National General Prosecutor (NGP) files from the time of the dictatorship in hopes of bring complicit businesses to justice.
Through a series of elite interviews with officers of the NGP and leaders of human rights organizations as well as analysis of media reports, the team have prepared a list of 15 companies that are alleged to have been involved in human rights violations in the province of Tucuman, and they have started building a similar list for the province of Jujuy. To ensure the survivability of their work and to make it available to a wider audience, they are also developing a public-access online database of all cases underway together with the details of the companies and allegations.
Working with CELS and ANDHES, Professor Payne and Dr Pereira are also developing tools to build capacity amongst practitioners so that they can carry out research and analysis themselves to advance accountability efforts. They also hope to expand and adapt the model developed in Argentina to build capacity of NGOs and practitioners in other parts of Latin America and the rest of the world that have experienced similar crises. In this way, they aim to raise the global costs of corporate human rights violations and enhance the legitimacy and protection of practitioners engaged in accountability efforts through well-developed research, litigation and public policy collaborative strategies.
This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.