Spanish judge campaigns to make corporations pay for crimes

Image of Santo Tomas de Aquino pool in Estepona. Credit: [email protected]

A CONTROVERSIAL, campaigning Spanish judge, who was behind the arrest of Chilean former dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998, has joined forces with other legal experts to look at putting economic and environmental crimes on a par with war crimes.

Baltasar Garzon is promoting a September conference in Buenos Aires that will bring together human rights activists, judges and legal academics to look at extending the concept of universal justice – where people or organisations can be tried in one country for human rights abuses committed in another.

Speaking from Argentina, Garzon said that certain economic and environmental crimes could be considered crimes against humanity because they cause the death of thousands of people.

While such crimes could be very difficult to prosecute, he said, “in 10 years’ they will be at the centre of debate.”

The crimes could include the actions of so-called ‘vulture capitalist’ financial institutions, which move assets out of cash-strapped countries, said Garzon, or companies which cooperate with dictatorships in order to work uninhibited in that region. Garzon claimed there were companies who “collaborate with Boko Haram in return for letting them work.”

He also referenced the exploitative mining of coltan, a mineral used in the production of mobile phones, where he said: “90 per cent of the mines are illegal, without minimum conditions and child labour.”

He went on to say that the connection between environmental crimes and human rights was increasingly clear to the world: “We’re seeing how climate change is connected to natural disasters and famines.”

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