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Corporate Criminal Liability for Atrocities : Soft Law Failures, Hopeful Rulings, and Domestic Reliance

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Title: Corporate Criminal Liability for Atrocities : Soft Law Failures, Hopeful Rulings, and Domestic Reliance
Author(s): Bagdasar, Hannah
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Degree program: Master's Programme in International Business Law
Specialisation: Comparative law
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2018
Crimes perpetrated by large corporate actors are often met with impunity. This is particularly relevant in the case of the international core crimes and grave human rights abuses. Serious breaches of human rights were once thought to only committed by states and their actors, but as corporations grow to gain more power than that of some states, so grows their power to commit egregious abuses. As such, it is imperative to assess the mechanisms governing corporate actions, on both the international and domestic levels. This paper aims to provide a overview of the mechanisms governing corporate criminal liability for violations of the international core crimes through an assessment of ongoing soft law mechanisms, international tribunal precedent, domestic practices looking into best practices as well as common failures. Ultimately, the author finds that in order to effectively achieve criminal liability for corporate perpetrators of atrocity crimes, domestic paths must be pursued and strengthened before moving forward at the international criminal level. In the first part of this paper the author lays the ground work for how businesses can commit egregious abuses, and provides background on the ongoing frameworks of corporate social responsibility which dominates the human rights and business space. The second part looks into the international soft law mechanisms that largely govern how businesses operate with respect to human rights and preventing violations of the core international crimes. Several of the major mechanisms are selected and analyzed, along with a failed proposal by the United Nations, and a new Draft Treaty on Business and Human Rights. The third part looks at the how corporate criminal liability functions as part of international law customs and at international tribunals, with a look into the Nuremberg industrialist trials, the notable failure to include legal persons into the founding documents of the International Criminal Court, and a hopeful ruling regarding the jurisdiction over legal persons by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The fourth part focuses on domestic systems, looking into how corporate criminal liability is applied within two different jurisdictions, France and the United States, and one corporate accountability case that spans both jurisdictions. Finally, the author gives recommendations on what can be done in order to move forward with creating a more cohesive approach to corporate criminal liability for atrocity crimes at the international level, which is largely dependent on that of domestic systems.
Keyword(s): Corporate liability international criminal law international core crimes human rights corporate social responsibility

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