Tomas Hamilton, post-doctoral researcher with the Rethinking SLIC project, weighs in on the war in Ukraine from an arms control perspective in three recent blog posts:

Despite increasing calls by shareholders to exit Russia after its brutal and unprovoked attack against Ukraine, the French energy company TotalEnergies has opted not to entirely abandon its dealing there. Reacting to TotalEnergies’s decision, NGOs Greenpeace France and Amis de la Terre have alleged that the company’s continued involvement “contributes, at least financially, to Russian aggression in Ukraine”, noted that the company and its managers might face criminal liability for facilitating war crimes and crimes against humanity, and highlighted the company's legal obligation not to contribute to human rights violations. In response, TotalEnergies claimed is acting in a responsible manner and that it will take new steps in light of the worsening conflict. However, it appears that TotalEnergies will continue to do business in Russia, at least for now. This blogpost contemplates whether TotalEnergies’s continued business dealings in Russia contribute to Russia’s ability to wage an illegal war, and if so, whether there are any legal consequences. 

On 23 February 2022, following the earlier recommendation for a directive by the European Parliament, the EU Commission presented its (long overdue) proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive that aims to regulate corporate conduct in order to prevent and remedy human rights violations and environmental harm related thereto. Given the numerous legislative initiatives, proposals and debates at the national level, the Commission concludes that the proposal answers to a ‘clear request by Union Citizens (…) to address these and other adverse impacts’. This blogpost highlights some aspects of the proposed rules on civil liability and provides some initial thoughts on whether the proposed Directive will be a leap forward for the further development of civil liability standards or whether it might stifle progress.

Göran Sluiter, principal investigator of the rethinking SLIC project, recently wrote three blog posts on issues concerning the war in Ukraine

At last year’s UvA roundtable discussion with Philippe Sands, and a subsequent Rethinking SLIC Panel Discussion on Ecocide with Kate Mackintosh, we presented our views about the scope of liability for acts of ecocide in response to the Stop Ecocide Foundation Independent Expert Panel’s (IEP) proposal for the legal definition of ecocide. Some reflections from our discussions on ecocide are set out in this blog.

There can be no doubt that the recent Russian aggression towards Ukraine amounts to one of the most important allegations of international crimes since the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). For at least three reasons, the role of the ICC in relation to Putin’s and Russia’s commission of core crimes on Ukrainian territory has thus far been disappointing, and sadly appears indicative of the Court’s increasing irrelevance. 

Since at least 2017, Myanmar has come under increased scrutiny for the actions of its military (the Tatmadaw) against ethnic minorities in its northern provinces and in Rakhine. While the Burmese government has argued its actions are in response to threats by militant groups, many have characterised them as international crimes.
It is both realistic and legally possible for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (‘IIMM’) and the ICC to ensure that allegations of corporate complicity feature in the future accountability landscape for Myanmar under international criminal law. The individual complicity of corporate CEOs falls within the terms of reference of the IIMM and the material jurisdiction of the ICC. Customary international law standards of aiding and abetting, and Article 25 of the Rome Statute provide a legal basis for the accomplice liability of such individuals.

Last week, Rethinking SLIC* published Göran Sluiter's blog post on the secondary liability of social media platforms in relation to 'image-based sexual abuse' (I-BSA, also known as 'revenge pornography'). The blog has prompted Dutch Member of Parliament Michiel van Nispen of opposition party SP to submit written questions on the matter to Minister of Justice Grapperhaus. 

Image-based sexual abuse (I-BSA), also known as ‘revenge pornography’, has a grave impact on its victims and can lead to feelings of fear, shame, humiliation, anger, sadness and depression, and in some cases even to suicide. There is thus every reason to have a robust investigative and prosecutorial policy in place to effectively deal with such cases. In the Netherlands, a new provision in the Dutch Penal Code, Article 139h, was inserted quite recently to better encapsulate the conduct of I-BSA, justified by the need for a focused penal provision on I-BSA on the basis of a need for a uniform framework, to do justice to victims and to send a strong signal to potential wrongdoers. Could social media platforms be held liable for aiding and abetting I-BSA?

On 23 November 2021, the District Court of The Hague delivered its summary judgment in the case filed by PAX, Stop Wapenhandel and the Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists against the Dutch government’s decision to allow the export of military goods and technology to Egypt. The decision exposes certain inconsistencies between the English and the Dutch version of the assessment criteria in the EU Common Position. Could the English wording make a difference on appeal?

The definition of ecocide proposed by the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide lies at the centre of the current debate surrounding ecocide as an international crime. Rethinking SLIC* is very fortunate to welcome Kate Mackintosh, one of the driving forces behind the ecocide definition and a leading member of the Panel, to speak and update us on recent developments. She will be joined by researchers from the University of Amsterdam who will shed their light on some issues surrounding the definition.

This will be a hybrid event. Register here to participate via Zoom. 

Between 2012 and 2019, 674 attacks with cluster munitions were reported in Syria. The majority of those attacks were carried out within the Syrian-Russian Joint Operation. One of the deployed cluster munitions is the SPBE-D model, an example of a new generation of Russian cluster munitions, which was tested in Syria. This blogpost discusses whether Russian company NPO Basalt participated in violations of international humanitarian law by providing cluster munitions to be tested in the Syrian conflict. It also analyzes the responsibility of NPO Basalt’s executives under the rules of the Rome Statute as an aider and abettor to the aforementioned violations.

On 26 May 2021, two separate shareholder meetings at leading oil companies made major headlines, when they provided a theater for “shareholder rebellions” by climate activists and investors. At Exxon Mobil, the small, San Francisco-based hedge fund Engine No. 1 successfully campaigned to replace three of the company’s board members with its own candidates who are committed to pursuing a green business strategy. On the same day at Chevron, 61% of the company’s shareholders voted in favor of a proposal by the Dutch organization Follow This to cut carbon emissions. Can shareholder rebellions also work in the context of business and human rights violations?

There has been a steady increase in online disinformation and extremism, the effects of which have been felt offline. Through various online platforms, politicians and military leaders incite violence, far-right groups organise riots and violent attacks, forums inspire domestic terrorists to carry out mass shootings, and conspiracy theories spread like wildfire. From these examples, a common theme emerges – people use online platforms, primarily social media, to help and influence others to commit crimes offline. How should criminal law address this issue?

The allegation that arms manufacturers in the Global North (who produce and export weapons ‘lawfully’ in accordance with national export regulations) are producing weapons that are used (unlawfully) against civilian populations in the Global South has come under elevated scrutiny in recent years. Some sectors of civil society have become ever more vocal about arms exports from the EU, the US, and other major manufacturing States that appear to facilitate atrocity, despite complying with their home state’s national export controls. How can a society claim respect for human rights at home, while producing weapons that fuel conflict and criminality abroad?