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Business and Human Rights Litigation in Europe and Canada: The Promises of Forum of Necessity Jurisdiction

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In the international debate over the human rights impact of transnational corporations' activities, access to judicial remedies for the human rights consequences of corporate misbehaviour has acquired a rather prominent place. For various reasons, victims of human rights abuses involving corporations may not have access to the fora offered by corporations' home and host states. Therefore, attention can be turned to bystander states offering an exceptional “forum of necessity” to avert a denial of justice. Such a forum of necessity is not, however, without problems. While, on the one hand, it may provide access to justice for victims of human rights abuses, it also creates the risk of forum shopping and potentially increases uncertainty for corporate defendants. Adopting forum of necessity thus requires the striking of a delicate balance between the interests of plaintiffs, defendants and the states asserting necessity jurisdiction.

The debate on forum of necessity takes place in different fora. The doctrine is found in several European jurisdictions, but its contents and the degree to which it is developed vary signifi cantly. Thus, whether it can be expected to play a noticeable role in business and human rights cases is uncertain. As there are few relevant cases in Europe and the doctrine is generally in its infancy, the article compares the European experience with the experience of Canada, where forum of necessity has played a more prominent role, also in (business and) human rights cases. The European Union for its part has recently adopted a new regulation on jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters known as the recast Brussels I Regulation; the Commission's initial proposal for this new regulation contained a forum of necessity clause. This proposal was however signifi cantly amended, not specifi cally because of forum of necessity, but because EU Member States likely rejected the Commission's extension of the Regulation's scope to cover all civil cases in the EU, even those against defendants domiciled in third states. Consequently, the initiative to pursue forum of necessity as a helpful tool in business and human rights cases may fall to the Council of Europe. A lively debate is currently going on regarding the remedies that CoE Member States should provide to implement the UN Guiding Principles, and proposals are currently on the table to encourage CoE Member States to adopt certain grounds for jurisdiction, including forum of necessity, in their civil procedure law.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • Die Zeitschrift wurde 1927 von Ernst Rabel als das deutsche Zentralorgan und Forum für die Grundlagenforschung auf den Gebieten des Privat-, Wirtschafts- und Verfahrensrechts in ihren internationalen Aspekten gegründet. Fachgebiete für alle diese Materien sind also die Rechtsvergleichung und das Auslandsrecht, das Internationale Privat-, Wirtschafts- und Verfahrensrecht sowie die Rechtsvereinheitlichung einschließlich des Europarechts.

    Die Zeitschrift versteht sich als Forum internationaler wissenschaftlicher Auseinandersetzung und geistigen Austausches mit der ausländischen Forschung. Sie publiziert grundlegende Aufsätze (in Deutsch, Englisch, Französisch) aus allen Arbeitsgebieten des Instituts, unter Einbeziehung des Wirtschafts- und Europarechts. Besonders beachtet werden die Übereinkommen, Richtlinien und Verordnungen der Europäischen Gemeinschaften sowie die Übereinkommen der Haager Konferenz für IPR. Neue Gesetzestexte, Abkommen und rechtsvergleichende Entwürfe werden als Materialien abgedruckt und kritisch gewürdigt. Für die Besprechung der in- und ausländischen Literatur gibt es einen umfangreichen Rezensionsteil.

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