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We recently wrote about Chiquita being found liable in the US for atrocities committed in Colombia. Another case is arising that follows similar themes – multinational corporations being held responsible in Western democracies for unlawful acts abroad. In London, the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) faces allegations that it wrongfully certified gold as being mined free of human rights abuses when the opposite was true. The case centers around allegations that Barrick Gold Corporation violated human rights at its North Mara mine in Tanzania and that LBMA certified this gold as complying with its human rights policies when it should have been ineligible for such certification. SWI reports on the case stating:

“’If the LBMA had removed the certificate, which [Alex Wessely, Leigh Day senior associate] argues it should have if it followed its own policies, it would have created the motivation for the other actors in this gold supply chain to finally sort out its human rights problem. ‘That’s why we say the LBMA is the causative actor here’ Wessely says.

Civil society groups, including RAID, Global Witness and SWISSAID, wrote a letter this year criticising (again) the LBMA’s responsible sourcing programme for failing to address human rights abuses and illicit gold in supply chains. The LBMA says it has taken steps to strengthen transparency of the gold supply chain over the past ten years.”

The Plaintiffs fought hard for access to the UK courts where a law firm could represent them on a contingency fee, a payment structure that doesn’t exist in Tanzania. Access to Western courts is often vital to foreign plaintiffs who are denied access to justice in their home countries for political or economic reasons. Similar accusations have been brought against LBMA and similar organizations before, but this appears to be the first time an action has made it into court. Bringing action against a certifying group is a novel legal strategy. The case is targeting LBMA as a causative actor solely for their role in allegedly improperly certifying the gold’s producer. This theory of causation, even if it fails to succeed, may cause concern for industries that rely on these certifications and perhaps encourage certification providers to rethink their approach to due diligence.

Our members can learn more about human rights in international trade here.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile