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GENEVA (SWITZERLAND) 20 June 2014 – Defenders of the environment are in Geneva for the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (June 10-27) to present cases of human rights violations by corporations and to call on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to create an international legally binding treaty to address business and human right issues. [1]

“Many countries support tabling a resolution for a binding treaty on business and human rights issues, but the EU said that if it gets adopted it will refuse to discuss it. The EU is therefore effectively boycotting the UNHRC and standing up for corporate interests instead of human rights,” said Anne van Schaik, accountable finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

“We urgently need an international treaty to address corporate human rights violations. By recognising environmental activism in all its expressions as legitimate defence of human rights, we can contribute to the struggle of environmental rights defenders and keep them safe,” said Alberto Villarreal, trade and investment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Uruguay.

Friends of the Earth International is part of the Treaty Alliance, an alliance determined to stop corporate human rights violations. [2] It demands UNHRC member States to approve a resolution to ensure a legally binding regime to bring corporations to justice for human rights violations, as well as remedies and justice for affected people, and support proposals being put forward by governments of Ecuador and South Africa at the 26th UNHRC session.

Environmental defenders often face terrible consequences for their actions, suffering rights violations and violence, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth International to be released on June 26 in Geneva.

The following environmental defenders will be in Geneva on June 23-27:

1) Micaela Antonio Gonzalez from Guatemala and Victor Barro from Friends of the Earth Spain will report on human rights violations by Spanish company Hidralia in Guatemala.
2) Abeer Al Butmah from Friends of the Earth Palestine will describe human rights violations by Israeli water company Mekorot in Palestine.
3) Godwin Ojo from Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Paul de Clerck from Friends of the Earth Europe will give an account of the human rights violations committed by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell in the Niger Delta.
4) Alberto Villarreal will expose violations of the human right to health posed by the Philip Morris International challenge to the tobacco control legislation in Uruguay.

On June 23 between 9 am and 6 pm these and other cases will be heard at a special session of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal organised by the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power & Stop Impunity at the Maison des Associations.  The eight transnational corporations which will be ‘on trial’ for human rights violations committed around the world in Geneva are: Hidralia, Mekorot, Shell, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Pacific Rim, Lonmin and Glencore. [3]

On June 24 the Peoples Tribunal sentence will be presented in a press conference at Swiss press club at 11am (Route de Ferney, 106).

On June 26, Friends of the Earth International side event will present the new report “We defend the environment, we defend human rights” from 10am to 12pm at Palais des Nations (room XXIV).

The fact that the Permanent Peoples Tribunal has to present a moral judgment to make these cases of human rights violations visible confirms that present voluntary approaches are woefully inadequate to deal with ongoing corporate violations and systemic denial of access to justice for the victims.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES IN GENEVA CONTACT:

Alberto Villarreal, Friends of the Earth Uruguay trade and investment campaigner: Tel: +41 79 42 94 275 (in Geneva from 17 to 26 June only) or +598 98 556360 (in Uruguay) or comerc@redes.org.uy

Lucia Ortiz, Economic Justice International Program Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International : +31-6-51 00 56 30 (valid only 23 to 27 June) or + 55 48 99 15 00 71 (in Brazil) or lucia@natbrasil.org.br

Anne van Schaik, Accountable Finance Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe:  +31-6-24 34 39 68 or anne.vanschaik@foeeurope.org

Paul de Clerck, Coordinator Economic Justice Program, Friends of the Earth Europe +32 494 38 09 59 or paul@milieudefensie.nl

Ignacio Cirio from Real World Radio +31-6-51005630 (valid only 23 to 27 June) or prensa@radiomundoreal.fm

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. On may 7, 2014, a global alliance of civil society organizations known as the Treaty Alliance representing more than 500 groups called on UN Human Rights Council members to support an initiative in June that would begin a process towards creating an international legally binding treaty to address corporate human rights violations. For more information read: www.foei.org/news/groups-call-for-un-treaty-to-tackle-corporate-human-rights-violations
  2. A regulatory and enforcement framework that is legally binding for corporations has been proposed at the UNHRC by a group of 84 nations since September 2013, and it is a historical demand by Human Rights movements as well as Friends of the Earth International
  3. More information about the Permanent Peoples Tribunal in Geneva at: www.stopcorporateimpunity.org