23 March 2012 - 7:45am | posted by | 1 comment

Sound off For Justice social media campaign backed by Oxfam, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth

Sound off For Justice social media campaign backed by Oxfam, Amnesty International and Friends of the EarthSound off For Justice social media campaign backed by Oxfam, Amnesty

A social media campaign that begins today, aiming to protect the rights of corporate victims in developing countries, has been backed by charities such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and CAFOD.

The CourtShort campaign aims to protect those affected by multinationals, and help them to find justice within UK courts and is being led by the Sound Off For Justice group.
Sound Off For Justice is campaigning against the proposal to impose £350 million of legal aid cuts and changes to No Win No Fee legislation.

The campaign includes a Facebook page created by the group, which is calling on the government to stop passing legislation that could see foreign workers taken advantage of by large corporations. An online poll has been added to the page asking users to vote as to whether they believe the LASPO bill, being discussed in Parliament on Tuesday 27 March, is fair.

Twitter users are also being called upon to voice their disapproval using the #CourtShort hashtag.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, explained: “We are calling on the public to tweet and sign the Facebook poll today. If the government pushes this bill through, it will be a dark day for access to justice in Britain. The message will be sent out that this government is prepared to go out of its way to protect big business at the expense of their victims of human rights abuse, who will have the door to legal recourse slammed shut on them.”

Kathleen Spencer Chapman, head of government relations at Oxfam added: “Poor people around the world who have suffered human rights abuses at the hands of UK companies must not become innocent victims of a bill which would strip away their ability to seek redress in UK courts. The Government's plan offers zero financial gain for the British taxpayer - while reducing protection for the world’s poorest people".

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Comments

23 Mar 2012 - 12:00
ppalm74246's picture

Next week (Tuesday 27 March 2012) the House of Lords will be voting on a crucial question for the UK’s international record on business and human rights.

In the middle of hundreds of amendments to the tentacular Legal Aid and Punishment of Offenders Bill which is currently passing through Parliament, the Lords will finally vote on amendments designed to make sure that overseas victims of abuses committed by UK-based companies will still be able to bring cases in the English courts.

The need for these amendments have been highlighted by CAFOD, Amnesty International, Oxfam and others, and supported by cross-bencher Baroness Jean Coussins, as well as LibDem and Labour peers. And yet, the Government has refused to budge.

The Government claims its new Bill will prevent ‘ambulance chasing’ by legal firms using ‘no win-no fee’ arrangements to claim large success fees from defendants. However, ministers have already admitted there has never been a glut of spurious human rights cases from overseas. In fact only 11 such cases have been brought in the last decade.

But a consequence of the Bill’s all-encompassing nature will be to also remove the ‘success fee’ paid to specialist law firms that bring human rights abuse cases against UK multinationals operating overseas. This means these cases will become too expensive and risky for overseas victims to bring in most circumstances, and that means poor claimants in poor countries won’t be able to seek justice in the UK. And what’s really concerning about the UK government’s refusal to move on this issue, is that these cases don’t involve any taxpayers’ cash.

Foreign victims do not have any access to Legal Aid so these claims already depend on ‘no win, no fee’ agreements with lawyers and claimants being able to get insurance to cover the costs and risks of such lengthy, complicated cases.

The Government is proposing to change this system so that lawyers’ success fees and the insurance premiums would be paid out of the damages awarded to the victim instead of being paid by the losing company. When the size of damages is often judged by in-country standards, yet the court costs will be at rich nation levels – there just is no way to bridge this financial disparity and injustice.

There are a lot of domestic issues of importance in the Legal Aid Bill, and in highlighting this one, I in no way belittle any others. But let’s not let this one slip by unaddressed and unfought for. It’s important. Really important. If we are unable to hold UK companies to legal account for human rights abuses abroad we make the choice to abandon the poorest -and we release a kraken, and it will be one that damages our reputation as a bastion of justice and rightminded right-doing.

In the final days before the Lords vote next Tuesday CAFOD has joined forces with Amnesty International, Oxfam and Friends of the Earth to back a social media campaign to gain support for these amendments. Please add your voice to the #CourtShort campaign and get the word out by tweeting your support with the #CourtShort hashtag and taking the poll http://www.facebook.com/soundoffjustice. For more information: http://soundoffforjustice.org/ ------------

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