Human Rights and Corporations

There are a number of significant problems in choosing human rights law to impact on companies. They are;

  • The Civil and Political Rights vs Economic and Social Rights controversy
  • Reaching a proper understanding of ‘rights'
  • The international legal systems and international institutions which are heavily state-orientated and consequently;
  • The ways in which corporations can (or cannot) be seen as duty holders and as human rights violators
  • Direct and Indirect Routes to the imposition of human rights obligations on companies.
  • The possibility of human rights standards being inserted into the decision making of the international financial institutions and the IMF.
  • Can companies claim rights?

Perhaps the most obvious difficulty is that companies have no place in international law, including international human rights law, as the primacy of nation states is so important. Some argue that companies should be made accountable as players on the international stage since international law may grant personality to organisations other than states. The attributes of personality are then open for discussion: would companies have rights as well as duties? Could either be enforced and how? Would the grant of rights outweigh the imposition of duties? What would happen to the responsibility of states within which corporations operate? Given the hidden power of corporations, is it at all likely that they wish to have a formal voice? This part of the project will look at these key issues as well as the interface between human rights and corporate social responsibility.


Dr Michael Blecher, Dr Marios Koutsias,

Dr Adam Fagan, Professor Brigitte Granville,

Dr Andrew Fagan, Professor Marise Cremona,

Dr Rohan Kariyawasam, Professor Michael Pugh,

Professor Takis Tridimas; Kirsten Shields, Ph.D. Candidate,

Queen Mary/CLPE Fellow 2007

Leader Profile: 
Professor Janet Dine , LLB, PhD (London), AKC; Professor of International Economic Development Law, Director of CCLS. School of Law, Queen Mary University of London; Research Associate, CLPE, Janet's current research concerns the interaction of human rights law and international trade law. In particular she has, with Professor Brigitte Granville, been awarded £300,000 for a 3 year research project into the Fairtrade Labelling system.
  • Human Rights and Capitalism (Co-editor with A. Fagan), Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2006, 372, ISBN: 1845422686 [URL]
  • Using Companies to Oppress the Poor, in J. Dine and A. Fagan (Editors), Human Rights and Capitalism, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2006, 48-79, ISBN: 1845422686 [URL]
  • Company Law, 5ed, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, 425, ISBN: 1403920990 [URL]
  • Companies, International Trade and Human Rights, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, 319, ISBN: 0521828619 [URL]
  • Criminal Law and the Privilege Against Self-Incrimination, in S. Peers and A. Ward (Editors), The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: Politics, Law and Policy, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004, 269-286, ISBN: 184113449X [URL]
  • Property Rights, International Trade and Human Rights, in A. Hudson (Editor), New Perspectives On Property Law: Obligations and Restitution, London: Cavendish Publishing, 2003, 319-330, ISBN: 1859418422 [URL]
  • Transplantation for Transition: discussion on a concept around Russian reform of the law on reorganisations (Co-author with F. Dahan) [2003] 23(2) Legal Studies 284-310, ISSN: 0261-3875 [URL]
  • Risks and Systems: A new approach to Corporate Governance and the European Consultation Structures [2001] 3 International and Comparative Corporate Law Journal 299-313, ISSN: 1388-7084 [URL]
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