Corporate Criminal Liability – Key Resources
Under certain circumstances, a corporation can be held criminally liable for the illegal acts of its directors, employees or other individuals acting on its behalf. Efforts to hold corporations accountable under criminal law for illegal acts that result in human rights harm (corporate criminal liability) have gained traction since the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) were released in 2011.
The UNGPs require States to regulate rights respecting business behaviour not only in civil and administrative law, but also through “criminal regimes that allow for prosecutions based on the nationality of the perpetrator no matter where the offence occurs.” Illegal acts may be criminalised in international humanitarian law, anti-trafficking legislation, environmental laws, consumer safety legislation or workplace safety laws, among others.
There are many barriers to corporate criminal liability, including evidentiary burdens (the standard of proof required in criminal law is much higher than in civil law), and jurisdictional limitations (some jurisdictions only allow for the criminal liability of individuals, not corporations, and or do not allow prosecutions for extraterritorial harm). As a result, criminal law prosecutions for corporate human rights abuses remain few and far between. This resource hub provides analysis, commentaries and examples of criminal cases brought against companies to redress human rights abuses.
Summaries of claims brought against companies using criminal law.
Legal doctrines on corporate liability and human rights obligations.
Commentary on civil and criminal liability for human rights abuses committed abroad.
2017 Annual Briefing: Corporate impunity is common & remedy for victims is rare
Analysis on criminal law as a tool to hold companies accountable.
Corporate Crimes Project
Joint NGO initiative that aims to prevent corporate human rights abuses by holding companies to account if they cause or contribute to such abuses.
Corporate Crimes Principles
In-depth analysis by Amnesty International to advance investigations and prosecutions in human rights cases.
Compilation of initiatives, reports, commentaries and news articles.
Legislative reform efforts
- Civil society calls for consideration of criminal liability in EU mandatory human rights due diligence legislation
- UK civil society calls for company executives to be held criminally liable in the case of severe human rights abuses.