December 10 is International Human Rights Day. There will be a parade of international institutions and multinational companies marking the day, but then very little changes. IRAdvocates works every single day on International Human Rights issues, trying to stop multinational companies profiting from human rights violations. This year much of our work was focused on child slavery and forced child labor. Each time I travel to Cote D’Ivoire, I meet large numbers of children who were trafficked from Mali and Burkina Faso to then work and live as slaves harvesting cocoa for Nestle, Cargill, Mars, Hershey, and other large companies. Here are two boys who were trafficked from Burkina Faso. I met them in 2019 performing hazardous work on a cocoa plantation producing for a Cargill cooperative in Cote D’Ivoire:
In 2005, we sued Nestle and Cargill for using child slaves like these boys to harvest their cocoa. They and the other large companies acknowledge there is rampant child labor in their cocoa harvesting operations and they keep falsely promising consumers they will stop profiting from child labor. The reality remains that, as a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Labor recently found, there are 1.6 million children harvesting cocoa today: http://iradvocates.org/news/nestle/department-labor-study-child-labor.
Rather than work with us to create a viable monitoring, certification, and remediation program in the cocoa sector, Nestle and Cargill continue to fight us in court. After we had a major victory in the Court of Appeals finding that we had sufficient evidence that Nestle and Cargill are knowingly profiting from child slavery, the companies convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision. In a shockingly callous argument on December 1, 2020 [https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2020/19-416], the companies asked the Court to rule that corporations cannot be liable under international law for child slavery! It seemed that even the most conservative Justices thought this was a bridge too far, but we won’t know until we get the written decision in June 2021. In the meantime, we are asking for your help to demand that the companies focus on stopping their child slavery production system rather than seeking legal immunity for abusing West African child slaves. Contact information is here: http://iradvocates.org/press-release/press-release-supreme-court-will-he...
We also this year filed a new complaint against Apple, Tesla, Google, Microsoft and Dell under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act for contracting to buy cobalt for their lithium-ion batteries needed for their products from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This Blood Cobalt was mined by child miners who are regularly maimed and killed when extremely fragile tunnels inevitably collapse. Here is one of our clients, John Doe 3, who at age 17, was buried alive in a tunnel collapse and then woke up in a hospital with his crushed leg amputated:
We just filed our briefs in opposition to the five companies’ motion to dismiss the case: http://iradvocates.org/case-update/cobalt-mining-case/child-cobalt-miner.... They argued that they cannot be liable because they merely purchase cobalt. However, we demonstrate that they know the cobalt is mined by children who are frequently killed or maimed, they claim to have policies that require them to monitor to prevent any form of child labor, and they have direct contracts with mining companies that they know are using child labor. We should have a decision in early 2021, and if the Court allows the case to go forward, we will get documents and testimony from the managers and executives of the companies regarding their knowledge of and profiting from this extreme abuse of child miners.
We are truly taking on the giants of the global economy and we need your help to see this through. Can you please join the effort by making a donation to the IRAdvocates that will directly support our legal efforts against companies profiting from child slavery and forced child labor? If you want to help stop corporate child slavery, please click here to donate: https://iradvocates.nationbuilder.com/donate
You can also send a check to International Rights Advocates, 621 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.
Thanks very much and I look forward to keeping you advised of our progress in 2021,