To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck together with other international human rights lawyers, in order to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other declarations of human rights and national constitutions, through legal means.
Together with affected persons and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity of those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexualized violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.
Berlin/Karachi, 10 September 2019 – On 11 September 2012, 258 people died in a fire in the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi, Pakistan. The German retail chain KiK, the factory’s main customer, failed to ensure that its supplier adhered to fire safety laws. On the 7th anniversary of the factory fire, ECCHR and 63 other civil society organizations are campaigning for a new law to require German companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence of their supply chains.
“Since the fire, I have chronic heart and lung problems,” said Muhammad Hanif, a worker who survived the factory fire. “I can’t walk. I can’t work. I want [Germany’s] law to change so that our rights are protected. So that I and my friends who lost their lives in the fire, can seek justice.”
The factory fire survivor and three bereaved sued KiK in Germany supported by ECCHR and medico international, but the lawsuit was dismissed due to statutory limitations under Pakistani law. The due diligence initiative wants to ensure that those affected by German companies and their suppliers’ actions abroad can seek justice, including damages, in Germany.
“Those responsible for damages are liable for them,” said ECCHR’s Miriam Saage-Maaß, who developed the claim against KiK. “The Ali Enterprises case shows that companies’ voluntary compliance with human rights isn’t enough. A new law would create legal certainty for those affected and for companies. A clear legal process would have allowed us to bring KiK to court much earlier. That is why we support this initiative.”
Representing the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association (AEFFAA), the four Pakistanis brought their case before a German court in March 2015. The lawsuit was the first of its kind in Germany.
Find our more about the German human rights due diligence law initiative here.
Transnational corporations' responsibilities also extend to the working conditions in their subsidiary and supplier companies abroad. This position is supported by survivors and relatives of victims of the fatal fire at the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Karachi. Together with ECCHR, they filed a legal action for compensation against KiK.
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