Reports 06/05/2022

From resolutions and verdicts to the actual protection of Human Rights

Multinational corporations have become major violators of human rights and accomplices in violations of international humanitarian law. Increasingly, international agencies, citizen watchdogs, non-governmental organizations, and civil society in general are investigating, exposing, and providing evidence of the commission of these crimes or their collaboration by these types of companies.

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Collaborating entities



Fernando Acuña

Some of the most paradigmatic cases occur in Palestine and Western Sahara, where numerous resolutions and judgments from international bodies have declared that the occupation of both territories by Israel and Morocco, respectively, violates international human rights law (hereinafter HR) and international humanitarian law (hereinafter IHL) for the peoples of these territories. The activities necessary to enforce this occupation inevitably occur with the collaboration of multinational corporations that reap enormous economic benefits from it. Due to issues of proximity, market, historical ties, and other political-economic reasons, there is a significant presence in both territories of either Spanish companies or others that operate in both those regions and our country.

These companies not only profit from all activities that directly or indirectly contribute to perpetuating and expanding the illegal occupation, apartheid in the case of Palestine, and the consequent exploitation of their natural resources, but they are also often recipients of public funds from the Spanish state and other regional and local administrations. These revenues primarily take the form of public contracts for works, services, and supplies, but they are also transferred through the granting of subsidies (often from European funds) or the signing of collaboration agreements with the public administration. Even more rarely but equally reprehensible through sponsorship contracts in which there are no direct net gains, as is the case with the sponsorship of many artistic and cultural events.

However, the current legal framework of state and European law does not provide the necessary tools to sanction companies that commit such violations or to provide sufficient redress to those who suffer them. With few exceptions, as we will see later, the resolutions and judgments of these organizations and tribunals today only serve to point out the actions of states that commit human rights violations but do not judge the acts of complicity of the companies without which, in many cases, these violations could not be carried out. The outsourcing and offshoring of business activities with the consequent dissolution of responsibilities facilitated by the hyper-globalized world and the inability of state institutions to prosecute such behavior, especially due to a lack of jurisdiction, complicate this task. Also, the absence of ambitious regulations that empower international justice bodies to investigate, prosecute, and punish such conduct or that allow the creation of new institutions responsible for this task does not help