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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.

From Us

Lawsuit Profiles

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.

Key Resources

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.

Additional Resources

Compilation of initiatives, reports, commentaries and news articles.