Many individuals working to protect the environment, expose corrupt business practices, or ensure protections for workers or indigenous communities face different forms of retaliation. These include violent threats, restrictions on their ability to form associations and frivolous criminal charges. The Justice Defenders Program works with local partners facing such threats to develop innovative strategies to document abuses, form cross-sectoral coalitions, build public support, and engage key stakeholders to increase respect for human rights in business operations. Additionally, the Program helps activists to obtain protection when facing violent threats.
See below for examples of the Program's public work on business and human rights.
In January 2019, the Justice Defenders Program investigated reports that activists and community members who objected to the proliferation of hydropower plants (HPPs) in Valbona, Albania were facing consistent harassment from local state and company actors. Its report, “Communities under Pressure – Findings from Valbona, Albania,” describes instances of alleged harassment as reported by those who were interviewed by its investigator. As in the rest of the world, the forms of harassment reported included arrests or threats of arrests, apparently selective prosecutions of activists, threats to job security for activists or their family members, judicial harassment, anonymous threats, and smear campaigns that undermined familial and communal relationships.
The Justice Defenders Program observed the trial of Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais was charged with defamation in relation to his book Blood Diamonds : Corruption and Torture in Angola. The book implicated high ranking Angolan military officials for human rights violations committed in one of Angola's diamond mining areas. After proceedings that denied Marques de Morais the right to present a defense, induced him into making a statement on the basis of false pretenses and compelled him to bear the burden of proving his innocence, all in violation of international fair trial standards, Marques de Morais was found guilty.
In a continuation of the Program's previous advocacy, we called upon Angola and President João Lourenço to drop the pending criminal charges against Rafael Marques de Morais and fellow journalists in Angola.
The 2016–2020 Ashulia Strike Cases: Garment Worker Union Leaders in the Bangladeshi Criminal Justice System
The Justice Defenders Program analyzed the cases of seven full-time union or federation organizers and one garment factory worker who were allegedly involved in the 2016 Ashulia protests and found that the cases exemplify the ongoing anti-union discrimination against union leaders in Bangladesh.
Using the Courts to Harass Human Rights Defenders: Cameroon's Musa Usman Ndamba to hear judgement after 60 court appearances
The Justice Defenders Program reiterated its call to Cameroon to dismiss the charges against Mr. Ndamba and ensure that all human and environmental rights defenders in Cameroon are free to carry out their legitimate human rights work.
After observing several of the hearings in the cases against Jorge Acosta, an Ecuadorian workers’ rights advocate and coordinator of the banana workers’ union ASTAC, Center staff attorneys concluded that the criminal proceedings against him have been characterized by several serious irregularities. The Center staff further concluded that there are grounds for concern that officials may be using criminal proceedings against Mr. Acosta to intimidate and silence him in violation of his right to a fair trial as well as his right to the freedoms of association and expression. (English) (Español)
The report recommends that all stakeholders, including the Government of India, and the U.S. government, as well as business enterprises involved in exporting, importing, mining, and processing, should ensure protection of human rights through due diligence and best practices in the sandstone mining industry’s supply chain. The recommendations propose a holistic approach that governments, companies, civil society organizations and trade unions should undertake to eradicate serious human rights violations from Rajasthan’s sandstone mining industry.
The Justice Defenders Program issued a report on the arrest, detention and prosecution of Malagasy Environmental Rights Defender Clovis Razafimalala. Mr. Razafimalala is a well-known environmental activist who has for many years advocated against illegal trafficking of timber in Madagascar. The Justice Defenders Program report expressed concern that the case against Mr. Razafimalala was brought as retaliation for this work, particularly his advocacy against illegal rosewood trafficking.