Mining, timber felling, wind farms and hydro-electric dams – resource exploitation can result in contaminated water, heavy metals in the blood of local residents, forced displacement, land grabbing and the violent suppression of peaceful protests. Economic activities in the Global South far too often disregard the plight of people and the environment.
Heads of the large multinational companies that are responsible for such harm say their liability is limited. State and private investors who finance these projects argue that they have limited influence over what happens on the ground. And also political decision makers often evade their responsibility to defend the rights of affected people against corporate interests.
ECCHR seeks to challenge this. Looking at resource exploitation, we see that the responsibility for endangering human rights and the environment lies with those who profit most from these industries in the global economy. We work with those affected by such human rights violations to enforce their rights.
Big energy companies disrespect human rights and environmental protection time and again – as in the case of Électricité de France in Oaxaca, Mexico. The problem: wind power stations are planned on the territory of the indigenous Unión Hidalgo community. EDF is trying to secure a construction authorization from the Mexican state – but until now, the indigenous group was not effectively consulted.
Since the 1970s, the Western Sahara region has been militarily occupied by Morocco. Morocco thus violates the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people. Since 2018, ECCHR has been investigating if Germany is complying with its international obligations concerning the Sahrawi people's right to self-determination.
Local residents of the Romanian region of Roșia Montană successfully opposed the building of a gold mine. Now, mining company Gabriel Resources is suing the Romanian state. ECCHR and its partner organizations have filed an amicus petition and are supporting the community so that their rights continue to be taken into consideration.
In 2012, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank rejected a joint petition from ECCHR and the chiefs of four indigenous communities to be admitted as amici curiae in two cases in which European investors sought to sue the Government of Zimbabwe.
Mining projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America often give rise to environmental problems and social conflict. Local communities near the Tintaya Antapaccay mine in Peru have raised concerns about heavy metals polluting the water and associated health problems. The mine is run by a Glencore subsidiary.
In 2013, ECCHR submitted a criminal complaint against a German manager of timber company Danzer Group. He is accused of aiding and abetting, through omission, the crimes of rape, grievous bodily harm, false imprisonment and arson in the DR Congo.
In 2010, those affected by the construction of the Merowe dam in North Sudan filed criminal complaints against Lahmeyer employees. The German company played a major role in the construction. Over 4,700 families lost their belongings and their means of subsistence.