Assigning jurisdiction to the courts: parliamentarians save the spirit of the law on due diligence!
Monday, October 25th, 2021 in: News
Our human rights and environmental organisations welcome the decision of parliamentarians to assign jurisdiction to a judicial court to hear disputes arising from the law on the duty of vigilance of multinationals. Meeting in a joint committee in the framework of the examination of the bill “for confidence in the judiciary”, the deputies and senators decided in favour of human rights and the environment by pronouncing on the jurisdiction of the courts defined in Article 34, in order to preserve the spirit and effectiveness of the law on the duty of vigilance.
This debate followed a dangerous reversal by the Senate which, under pressure from lobbies, had adopted an amendment giving the Paris Commercial Court jurisdiction over disputes based on this law. By giving the court jurisdiction, the parliamentarians decided to facilitate access to justice for people whose rights are threatened or have been violated as a result of the activities of large French companies. Thus, magistrates, whose expertise in human rights is proven, will intervene from the first instance, which is not the case for consular judges, who are elected by their peers from among traders and managers of commercial companies.
Parliamentarians thus recognise the true meaning of the duty of care. It is an obligation on companies to identify risks and prevent serious human rights and environmental abuses, and therefore a matter that concerns society as a whole, which must be dealt with by the civil judge. The opposite decision would have had the consequence of approaching this law from a commercial point of view, with the risk of reducing the duty of vigilance to a mere formal obligation of “risk management”, and thus creating new obstacles in the quest for justice for people whose rights are being violated by multinationals.
This choice is all the more important at a time when the European Commission is preparing a proposal for a directive on the duty of vigilance, in the light of the French experience. We hope that this choice will be taken into account in the decisions expected in the coming months in the ongoing litigation.
In the face of the business lobby which is constantly trying to undermine the scope of the duty of care, we welcome the choice of parliamentarians to have clarified this point of the 2017 law, reaffirming the need for an effective implementation of the duty of care.
[Press release written by 6 NGO, all members of the Rethinking Value Chains collective : Friends of Earth France, Action Aid France, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, Collectif Ethique sur l’étiquette and Amnesty International France].
To find the history of the fight for the adoption of a law on the duty of vigilance, click here