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17 Oct 2023


EU: Ugandan activists call on EU to decide on a strong due diligence law so that they have an avenue to justice

"Ugandan activists call on EU to move forward on due diligence law"

Human rights lawyer Maxwell Atuhura and environmental activist Nick Omonuk have called on EU lawmakers to decide on a strong due diligence law so that they have an avenue to justice that is barred to them in Uganda. [...]

“It is really hard to get justice in Uganda because the president has a lot of say in the decisions of the court,” Atuhura said, pointing to a case involving a refinery that was simply never heard. Moreover, several of his colleagues had suffered from repression from authorities, for example through a revocation of operating licenses, he said.

Disillusioned with the Ugandan justice system, the case was brought to a French court, as France has had a duty of vigilance law since 2017 and the involved company was headquartered in France.

To Atuhura’s disappointment, however, the case was rejected by the French court.

According to ECCJ’s Lupin, the judge had argued that the duty of vigilance law was too vague and didn’t provide him with enough detail and guidance to apply the law.

“As a French-trained lawyer, I believe that this is where the directive can bring an answer. Especially the Parliament’s position has a lot more details, a lot more criteria that could help in applying the law to these cases,” Lupin said.

Finance and the CSDDD

The Parliament’s and the Council’s positions on the CSDDD not only differ in detail and criteria, they also differ in their treatment of the financial sector. While the Parliament wants investors and lenders to be held accountable for environmental and human rights risks in their investments, the Council wants to keep them outside the scope.

Omonuk, an environmental activist from Uganda, is focused on this particular aspect. “There are so many interlinkages between the banks and these projects,” he said, mentioning the example of the Austrian Erste bank that helped finance Total Energies.

Like Atuhura, he has seen colleagues be intimidated and repressed for protesting against the pipeline project that is being developed in a national park.

“It’s important for you to know about our struggles so that you know how important such laws like the due diligence directive are to us to fight for justice,” he told journalists in Brussels. [...]

Atuhura agreed, calling this model “total exploitation” and urging the EU to take a bold step in the opposite direction with the CSDDD. “Europe has much influence on the globe since law from Europe matters everywhere,” he said, adding that he hopes the EU would set “the path for the entire world to follow.”