International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: corporate crimes

Corporate Crimes in Malaysia?

Workers for McDonald’s in Malaysia have released statements claiming they are victims of labour exploitation, as seen in an article from The Guardian. The restaurants in Malaysia are not franchises like in other parts of the world, but owned directly by the company. The workers are not only being exploited by McDonald’s, but by a labor supply company, Human Connection HR. Among the many issues these workers are experiencing, McDonald’s pays them extremely low wages, and in most cases have withheld employee’s salaries, refusing to pay the employees on time. Because of this, workers have not been able to support themselves and their families with necessities such as food. The workers reporting these incidents were contracted to work for McDonald’s in Malaysia, from Nepal, by Human Connection. Since the workers are directly employed through Human Connection, McDonald’s managers have failed to address their concerns, stating that they can do nothing since Human Connection is their employer.

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Many workers have come forward with claims that Human Connection takes their passports once they arrive in Malaysia, refusing to return them. This system is illegal; however, for Human Connection it enforces the workers’ contracts to McDonald’s. In an interview with one of the victims he said that “Even those who finished the three-year contract cannot go home because they don’t have their passports.” Many requests for their passports to return home have been denied. Accommodations for the workers provided by Human Connection have also raised concerns. In many situations 10 to 18 employees are forced to live in an extremely small space in poor conditions. Attempts to get a response from Human Connection HR, by The Guardian, regarding this situation failed.

Monsanto Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity?

Monsanto, an agricultural company specializing in the development of GMO seeds and inorganic pesticides, was put on trial at the Hague back in October of this year. This trial was not legally binding, meaning they could not be charged with crimes against humanity at the time; however, according to Arnaud Apoteker, “The witnesses were presenting real cases to real judges. The lessons from this event can be used in ensuing local battles.” This particular case is a great example of the lack of legal responsibility and justice transnational corporations hold. In a report released by AlterNet, “Victims and witnesses described how, over the past 50 years, Monsanto has duped, assaulted, injured and killed farmers, farmworkers, rural villagers and urban consumers.” The hope with this trial is that it will provide enough evidence to the judges to carry out justice for corporate crimes and develop international law to include ecocide as a crime.

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Monsanto has been known to silence farmers who speak out against their products. They often impose on local farming traditions, with the argument that their GMO crops will help provide enough food for the world’s growing population. Despite this argument, food sustainability can increase drastically just by eliminating the world’s food waste. One witnesses’ account stated that “Before the introduction of glyphosate and other agrochemicals, I did not see our people suffer from sickness like this.” Highly toxic pesticides are required to grow the genetically modified crops produced by Monsanto and other Big Agri companies. Not only do these chemicals negatively impact human health, causing many serious issues, but it impacts the environment as the chemicals seep into the ground to in turn pollute water systems. Depleting the nutrients in the soil will effect crop yields as well, impacting our food production. Will the pressure from civil society finally push international courts to hold these transnational corporations accountable for their crimes?

Native Tribes

All of the situations we’ve looked at so far have involved some form of understood warfare/contentious activity between governments, militia groups or opposition parties. I am wondering what room there is for the ICC to investigate cases of crimes against humanity beyond the context of warfare, if at all. Specifically I am thinking of polluting an environment and ruining resources while knowing that it has a considerable detrimental effect on groups of people. This article from al Jazeera references the grave effects that the activities of private companies have had on native tribes.

This could just be too broad of an interpretation of ICC jurisdiction; but it seems like there might be some room for it, because of the classification of internally displacing people as a crime. Additionally, the article mentions that the affected groups have tried to seek redress in the relevant courts, but have been unsuccessful;

Sarayaku is situated deep in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle. In 1996, the Ecuadorian government gave oil-rich land in Sarayaku to the Argentine company CGC. So far, the Sarayaku protests and the legal action have prevented drilling. In 2003 they took their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It has still yet to rule on the dispute.

How would the ICC interact with this situation? It seems like being a “court of last resort” would apply.