Chocolate Making Companies Can Learn A Lesson From Ferrero’s Ethical Commitments

By: Ryan Ockenden

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

YAMOUSSOUKRO, Côte d’Ivoire The cocoa harvesting industry in Côte d’Ivoire continues to be rife with child slavery. Children have been forced to overwork in unhealthy environments often kidnapped from their homes, brought across country lines, and held prisoner on cocoa plantations. Some of the largest international chocolate-making companies – such as Hershey, Nestle, and Mars – stand at the center of this controversy.

Children work side by side on cocoa plantations to cultivate cocoa from pods in order to serve a massive international chocolate-making market. Photo Courtesy of Fortune and Benjamin Lowy.

Chocolate-making companies seem inept at solving the child slavery problem, or perhaps they simply do not care to. Executives at these companies publicly abhor child labor in the chocolate industry. For decades, companies have promised to make changes through either stricter regulatory measures, or changing where they buy cocoa from – but these promises remain largely empty. The executives know that their success relies on gaining competitive advantages within the international market. For them, using child labor gives them an advantage because they can keep their cocoa purchase costs down.

One company, Ferrero, has put ethics before the zeal of gaining a competitive advantage. In 2011, Ferrero partnered with Save the Children in order to work toward a ten-year goal of transitioning their cocoa purchases to 100% sustainable and broadly ethical sources. Ferrero met their goal, and just last week renewed their partnership with Save the Children for an additional five years. Together they are committing €8M ($9.43M) to continue their sustainability and ethical devotion to cocoa cultivation. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has noted that all actions taken by another person that concern a child must be primarily focused on that child’s best interests. In many African communities, cultural expectations of children’s labor contributions differ from those generally sought by countries enforcing United Nations policies. Therefore, Ferrero and Save the Children agreed that moderate child labor is acceptable so long as it includes healthy working conditions that will protect child workers from economic exploitation, hazardous activities, and will give them an opportunity to attend school.

Ferrero’s project with Save the Children incorporates a variety of ways to ensure those goals are met. Ferrero is investing in tracking the supply chain to trace the source of cocoa so that they can check farms for any violations. Additionally, they are mapping farmers in order to prevent deforestation, helping women in the communities to attain small business loans, and ensuring children have access to continually improving education. While other international chocolate-making companies find themselves subject to lawsuits for aiding and abetting human rights violations, perhaps they can learn a lesson from a company that stands invested in ethics.

In order to ensure that abusive child labor is eliminated from the cocoa industry in Côte d’Ivoire, it will take contributions from all chocolate-making companies to commit to ethical and sustainable cultivation. These commitments will strengthen protections for child workers, increase access to quality education, empower women to engage in markets, and develop communities across West Africa.

For further information, please see:

African Court on Human and People’s Rights – African Court Law Report – 2017-2018

European Food Agency News – Ferrero Still In Field Against The Scourge Of Child Labor – 25 Mar. 2021

The Guardian – Mars, Nestle and Hershey to face child slavery lawsuit in US – 12 Feb. 2021

The Washington Post – Supreme Court Weighs Child Slavery Case Against Nestle USA, Cargill – 1 Dec. 2020

Fortune – Bitter Sweets: A special on-the-ground report from West Africa – 1 Mar. 2016

Second International Human Rights Forum Promotes Judicial Dialogue and Collaboration Among Three Regional Courts

By: Kimberly Erickson

 Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights hosted the second International Human Rights Forum on March 25, 2021 in Strasbourg, France and via an online conference platform.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France hosted the second International Human Rights Forum on March 25, 2021. Photo Courtesy of the Council of Europe.

The fora’s objective was to enhance judicial dialogue and collaboration among the three regional human rights courts, meeting on a biennial basis in rotating locations.

The first forum was held in Kampala, Uganda in October 2019 and hosted by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Discussion themes included “Operationalizing the International Human Rights Forum,” “Enhancing Jurisprudential Dialogue,” and “Financing and Sustaining the Forum.” A memorandum of understanding, also known as the Kampala Declaration, was signed at this time by representatives of each regional court to reaffirm their commitment to international human rights.

The second forum included discussions on jurisprudential cross-fertilization, current regional issues, and developments made since the first forum. Practical advancements in capacity building aimed towards information sharing and direct contact have been implemented, such as wider judicial dialogue networks and staff exchanges among the regional courts. For the former, each regional court has hosted and participated in a variety of other regional and national dialogues on human rights. In addition, each regional court has created or used digital communication platforms, online learning courses, and annual electronic reports, thereby expanding the network of information sharing and collaboration on human rights. For the latter, lawyers, judges, and executive leaders conduct working visits to the other regional courts in order to develop bi- and tri-lateral relationships, study case law, and become familiar with regional judicial methods.

President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Sylvain Oré, emphasized the importance of sharing the courts’ experiences so that they may each better address distinct regional judicial issues, including implementation of court decisions, jurisprudence, and ratification of international and regional human rights covenants. “We should have a certain harmonization on judgements we deliver. We had it in mind when we reached this memorandum of understanding,” he said, referring to the Kampala Declaration. His message of collaboration embodies the universality of human rights and transcends geographic boundaries.

Uganda and the African continent as a whole benefitted greatly from the improved dialogues among the regional courts according to Ugandan Chief Justice Bart Katureebe and Dr. Robert Eno, Registrar of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Both live and online presence dialogues included relevant topics such as migration, violence against women, environmental hazards, climate change, bioethics, terrorism, and mass data surveillance.

Discussions and results from the second forum have not yet been made public.

For further information, please see:

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights – Memorandum of Understanding: Kampala Declaration – 29 Oct. 2019

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights – Press Release: All Set for the Second International Human Rights Forum Tomorrow – 24 Mar. 2021

AllAfrica – Uganda: Kampala Declaration Casts Wider Net to Safeguard Human Rights – 29 Nov. 2019

Anadolu Agency – Regional human rights courts sign cooperation pact – 30 Oct. 2019

European Court of Human Rights – Programme: 2nd International Human Rights Forum (Regional Courts) – 25 Mar. 2021

European Court of Human Rights – Speech: Inter Court dialogue: how make closer the relations between the Courts – 28-29 Oct. 2019

Reparations Finally Given to the Many Victims of War Criminal Bosco Ntaganda

By: Samuel Schimel

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, NetherlandsBosco Ntaganda, whose armed forces terrorized the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was once again on trial in Chamber VI of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “Court”) on March 8th, 2021. What was conveyed by the Chamber in a public hearing was the formation of an Order of Reparations to victims under Article 75 of the Rome Statute in the case of The Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda was originally sentenced by the ICC to 30 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity on November 7th, 2019. In the 2021 decision, the Chamber, composed of Judge Chang-ho Chung, Judge Robert Fremr, and Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia, set the reparations award, for which Ntaganda is liable, at a total of USD 30,000,000.

Bosco Ntaganda at Trial Chamber VI of the International Criminal Court during the order for Reparations. Photo Courtesy of Reuters.

Nicknamed the “Smiling Terminator,” among others, Ntaganda was first indicted in 2006 for allegedly recruiting child soldiers during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s five-year war. He was a member of the Rwandan-backed Congrès national pour la défense du peuple – National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a rebel group that has committed countless atrocities against civilians. While a part of this group, he orchestrated an attack where 150 people were killed over two days in the town of Kiwanja, North of Goma. Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army and became a general. He commanded military operations in eastern Congo after an agreement was reached between the Congolese Army and the Rwandan government. For many Rwandan donors, the final straw was Ntaganda’s creation of the M23, another rebel group backed by Rwanda. As the leader of the group, Ntaganda orchestrated many other attacks on villages, executed hundreds of people, and was accused of rape, torture, and the forceful recruitment of child soldiers.

He surrendered to the U.S. embassy in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, in March 2013, and was transferred to the Hague some time afterward. Ntaganda was convicted on thirteen counts of war crimes followed by five counts of crimes against humanity. These counts included murder, rape, and sexual slavery committed during the conflict in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2002 and 2003. On the basis of the Rome Statute, Ntaganda was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment.

Given his criminal history, the eligible victims for reparations are direct and indirect victims of the attacks, victims of crimes against child soldiers, victims of rape and sexual slavery, and children born out of rape and sexual slavery. The Chamber notably found that the priority shall be given to individuals who are in need of immediate medical and psychological care, victims with disabilities, the elderly, victims of sexual or gender-based violence, victims who are homeless or have encountered financial hardship, as well as children born out of rape and sexual slavery and former child soldiers. A gender-inclusive and sensitive approach to the reparations will also be instituted.

The Chamber additionally encouraged the Trust Fund for Victims to add funds that would accompany the reparation awards, to the extent that is feasible given its available resources, and to take part in additional fundraising efforts as necessary to accompany the totality of the award. The Trust Fund for Victims was asked to create a draft implementation plan on the basis of all the modalities of reparations identified in the order, with the victim’s input. These modalities of reparations within the order incorporate measures of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and satisfaction, which may incorporate, when appropriate, a symbolic, preventative, or transformative value. The due date for the Trust Fund’s plan is September 8th, 2021 and an urgent plan for priority victims is due on June 8th, 2021. 

Ntaganda’s name is still likely to send chills across the citizens of the Congo and he is particularly remembered for his ruthlessness. Many of the victims of Ntaganda’s crimes have been forced into exile since they were threatened with more suffering if they dared to speak up against him during his trial. Hopefully, the judgment can be of some consolation to the victims, and may they finally be given the reparations they deserve.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Bosco Ntaganda – the Congolese ‘Terminator – 8 July

International Criminal Court – Ntaganda case: ICC Trial Chamber VI orders reparations for victims – 8 Mar. 2021

Human Rights Watch – Congo Warlord Gets 30 Years: Persistence Over Many Years Helps Bring Bosco Ntaganda to Justice – 7 Nov. 2019

International Criminal Court – Bosco Ntaganda sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment – 7 Nov. 2019

Reuters – War crimes court orders record $30 million compensation for Congo victims – 8 Mar. 2021

Violence Escalates in Mozambique

Mark Burroughs

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

CABO DELGADO, Mozambique – The crisis in Mozambique has reached its third year. Amnesty International has reported that thousands of civilians have been killed by multiple parties including the terror group Al-Shabaab, government security forces, and a group of government-hired mercenaries known as the Dyck Advisory Group (DAG).

Maria Antumane with her aunt. Photo courtesy of the Daily Beast and Nyasha Kadandara

DAG is a South African private military company that the Mozambique government hired after they lost several battles. DAG primarily fights using helicopters and has dropped bombs on both Al-Shabaab fighters and civilians in multiple villages. The Mozambique government has targeted men that are believed to be supportive of Al-Shabaab. Amnesty International acquired photos and videos that show the mistreatment of prisoners, from the fighting, by the Mozambique government. Amnesty International has accused Mozambique’s government of not fulfilling its obligation to protecting its citizens. The violence from all parties, specifically, Al-Shababb, has resulted in the death of over 1,300 civilians and the displacement of 668,000 civilians.

The central location of the violence in Mozambique has been in the Cabo Delgado region, which is considered one of Mozambique’s poorest regions, and many of the victims have been children. One mother described how she was forced to watch her oldest son be killed saying, “we tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn’t do anything because we would be killed too.” Elsa is not the only mother to have lost a son in the insurgency. In another account, a mother was forced to flee from her village to her father’s house after her 11-year-old son was killed. She was again forced to flee when the attacks started in her new location.

In another interview, 10-year-old Maria Antumane stated that she was forced to flee Bilibiza saying, “I saw this happening. Killing. The men told us, ‘sit there and watch someone be beheaded.'” Maria managed to flee just as a group of militant men burned down her village. Maria’s parents were killed in the attack on the village, and she has since been living with her aunt named Ana Maria Biche.

The massacre in Mozambique has drawn the concern of its former colonizer, Portugal. The Defense Minister of Portugal, João Gomes Cravinho, has proposed a military training mission to Mozambique to end Al-Shababb’s insurgency. The European Union (EU) has already been struggling with its current peacekeeping missions. It is not clear if they will be willing to increase their military bloc’s presence in the region; however, Cravinho remains positive.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Mozambique: “What I saw is death”: War crimes in Mozambique’s forgotten cape – 2 Mar. 2021

Amnesty International – Mozambique: Civilians killed as war crimes committed by armed group, government forces, and private military contractors – new report – 2 Mar. 2021

BBC – Hungry, angry and fleeing the horrors of war in northern Mozambique – 13 Mar. 2021

BBC – Mozambique insurgency: Children beheaded, aid agency reports – 17 Mar. 2021

Daily Beast – Child forced to watch beheadings: Rare Look in the Mozambique Massacres – 10 Mar. 2021

NPR – ‘The Stories Are Heartbreaking.’ What 1 Reporter Witnessed In Mozambique’s Violence – 13 Mar. 2021

Politco – Portugal wants EU to help Mozambique military fight jihadists – 12 Mar. 2021

Japan’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Deemed ‘Unconstitutional’ By District Court

By: Christian González

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

SAPPORO, Japan – On Wednesday, March 17th, a landmark ruling was made as one of the district courts for the Hokkaido prefecture found that Japan’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

Lawyers and same-sex marriage supporters outside the Sapporo courthouse. The sign reads “BIG STEP FORWARD FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY.” Photo Courtesy of Reuters.

The ruling came from one of several cases that had been filed by same-sex couples on Valentine’s Day in 2019, in district courts in Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka, and Nagoya. The District Court based in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s prefecture capital and largest city, made the first of such rulings.

Marriage is addressed in Article 24 of Japan’s constitution, and only defines marriage in terms of opposite-sex couples stating: “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.” While homosexuality has been legal in Japan since 1880, there has been no nationwide acceptance of same-sex unions, with only two wards in Tokyo allowing for ‘partnership certificates,’ since 2015. This creates issues for same-sex couples regarding rights of inheritance and paternity. Japan is also the only Group of Seven (G7) countries that does not recognize same-sex marriage or unions. Some have opined that Japan’s lag on same-sex marriage impacts it in the international economy, as foreign firms may be deterred from recruiting workers from Japan.

The ruling was made by presiding Judge Tomoko Takebe, who found that the government’s failure to recognize same-sex relationships violated the Constitution’s Article 14 guarantee of equality and freedom from discrimination. Judge Takebe also found that there was no violation of Article 24, since it explicitly deals with opposite-sex marriages and has no bearing on the allowance of same-sex marriage. Despite finding a constitutional violation, Judge Takebe rejected the plaintiffs’ claim for ¥1,000,000 (around $9,000 USD) in compensatory damages. She explained that she found no explicit violation of state reparations law.

The ruling comes as a sign of hope for same-sex couples in Japan. One plaintiff, who goes by the alias Rysuke Kunimi, said: “The chief judge said that the discrimination based on the natural difference of sexuality is a violation of Article 14. I could not stop crying.” The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Takeharu Kato, said he “never expected the court would rule this clearly,” and that the legal battle may be taken to a higher court.

Another couple who filed a complaint was Ai Nakajima and Tina Baumann. Nakajima and Baumann had met and were married in Germany, where Baumann is originally from. The couple then moved to Yokohama and applied for their marriage to be recognized, but their application was rejected. This created issues concerning Baumann’s visa status in the country. Regarding the new ruling, Nakajima said: “This is one huge step forward in Japan… we are moving closer to making our dream come true.”

The district court’s holding represents the first step in the government of Japan’s potential recognition of same-sex relationships. For that to happen, there would need to be a final ruling from the Supreme Court of Japan, or a law passed in the National Diet, Japan’s legislative body. Despite higher ratings approving of same-sex marriage amongst younger people, many argue that Japan’s ruling party, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, is unlikely to feel the same way. Regarding further victories in court, Mikiko Terahara, the executive director of Marriage For All Japan, believes that “the Sapporo ruling will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the ongoing same-sex marriage litigation in other regions.”

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Gay couples sue Japan over right to get married – 14 Feb. 2019

BBC News – Japan court finds same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional – 17 Mar. 2021

CNN – Japan’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage is ‘unconstitutional,’ court rules – 17 Mar. 2021

Constitute Project – Constitution of Japan 1946 – 3 May 1947

Marriage For All Japan – Home Page (Japanese) – accessed 21 Mar. 2021Marriage For All Japan – Home Page (Japanese) –  21 Mar. 2021

Supreme Court of Japan – Courts in Japan – 2020Supreme Court of Japan – Courts in Japan – 2020

The Japan Times – Japan court rules failure to recognize same-sex marriage unconstitutional – 17 Mar. 2021

TIME – A Court Ruled Japan’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban ‘Unconstitutional.’ Here’s What’s Next for LGBTQ Rights – 17 Mar. 2021