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International team head explains what works in field of corporate accountability

Leigh Day partner Richard Meeran shared his expertise as a pioneering multinational human rights abuse lawyer at the 2020 key UN forum on the issue this week.

Richard Meeran

19 November 2020

Richard, who heads up Leigh Day’s international team, was a panellist at the United Nations Business and Human Rights Forum, 16-18 November, 2020.
 
He addressed the audience at the Effective corporate accountability as prevention session, which aimed to explore what corporate accountability means, does it work, does it prevent business related human rights abuses and what are the challenges faced by lawyers?
 
Richard was asked to speak because of his significant experience in the field of corporate accountability, having brought the first three multinational human rights cases in the UK courts during the 1990s.
 
  • Richard pioneered UK multinational parent Company litigation against Cape PLC for 7,500 South African asbestos miners, Thor Chemicals for 42 South African workers poisoned by mercury and Rio Tinto for Edward Connelly. This included two landmark jurisdiction victories in the House of Lords, Connelly v RTZ Corporation Plc [1997] 3 WLR 373 and Lubbe & Others v Cape Plc 2000 1 WLR 1545.
  • He represented 31 Peruvian torture victims in case against Monterrico Metals plc, in which a worldwide freezing injunction was obtained Tabra & Others v Monterrico Metals Plc [2009] EWHC 2475; [2010] EWHC 3228.
  • Between 2004 and September 2016, Richard worked with the South African Legal Resources Centre and Legal Aid South Africa on a series of 23 silicosis test cases against Anglo American South Africa by former South African gold miners.  Later, he worked together with South African attorney, Zanele Mbuyisa, for more than 4000 South African gold miners in silicosis litigation against Anglo American South Africa and AngloGold Ashanti, which in 2016  resulted in the establishment of the Q(h)beka Trust.
  • He is acting for 270 Colombian campesinos who allege damage from the oil extraction activities of Amerisur Resources and who in January obtained a freezing injunction against the company Bravo & Others v Amerisur Resources PLC[2020] EWHC 125 (QB)
  • He is currently working with Zanele Mbuyisa on a class action against Anglo American South Africa filed on behalf of thousands of children allegedly poisoned by lead from the Kabwe mine in Zambia.
 
During the UN session Richard outlined the progress and success that has been achieved over the past 26 years in deploying tort litigation against multinational parent companies in cases for environmental damage, occupational disease and corporate complicity in human rights abuses by state security.
 
He argued that this litigation had made an important contribution to deterrence and prevention as well as redress for victims of human rights abuse.
 
Richard explained his strong opinion that voluntary principles were not enough and that mandatory human rights due diligence legislation was essential in the prevention of corporate human rights abuse across the globe.
 
The UN introduced the session with the explanation that lawyers in several countries have tried various legal bases (e.g., tort law, false advertising, environmental law, labour law, criminal law, constitutional law, mandatory human rights due diligence law and international law) to hold business enterprises accountable for human rights abuses, with mixed results.

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