How corporations are capturing the judiciary: a global trend
The Corporate Accountability Working Group had a marked presence at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva 27-29 November, with 21 of its members engaged. Amongst the more visible actions by ESCR-Net members was a side panel addressing instances of corporate capture in judicial systems around the world.
ESCR-Net members spoke from their experience on the ground to illustrate the phenomenon of corporate capture. Moderated by Fernanda Hoppenhaym of PODER, the panel worked through various manifestations of corporate capture with a focus on: how judicial interference has impacted effective access to remedy for victims in concrete cases of human rights violations involving corporations. Her presentation contained examples of when civil society-led strategies began to expose and overcome this phenomenon, and suggested potential avenues to engage within state and corporate spheres to combat this trend.
Maria Trombini (Terra de Direitos) detailed the situation in Brazil, where the judiciary has been greatly affected by undue corporate influence. Notably, a huge amount of litigation against big corporations sits i pending in Brazil, while agreements and partnerships emerge between the judicial systems and corporations. Furthermore, concerns have arisen around corporations funding events for Brazilian judges and paying for their participation in panels and events.
Glacy Macabale (Defend Job) spoke about the struggle of people affected by the Manila Bay Reclamation Project, highlighting how judicial institutions favored corporations in their rulings against local communities. She explained how gathering evidence and assuming the burden of proof became increasingly more difficult, meanwhile public-private partnerships began to be touted by the courts as beacons of progress. All this resulted in communities that oppose these exalted partnerships getting persecuted and threatened by corporations with impunity.
To conclude the event, Surya Deva (chair of the UN WGBHR) reflected on the presentations and pointed out that these trends are exceedingly common. He stressed the importance of this event, given that the phenomenon of corporate capture is more commonly spoken about as existing within executive and legislative branches. Deva maintained that an analysis of the judicial system in these terms is very much needed. He referred to the Pillar 3 of the guiding principles (access to remedy) as being critical, as access to justice is at the root any functioning system. He also underscored the importance of documenting this interference as a crucial step, welcoming further report on the mentioned cases.