North Korea Forced Labour Case

The case

On 4 December 2020, La Strada International with (legal) support of Prakken D’Olivera and Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) filed a complaint with the Dutch Public Prosecution against two Dutch shipbuilding firms. These two companies are suspected to have acquired ships from Polish shipyards while being aware that these ships were constructed at wharfs employing North-Korean workers under inhumane, exploitative conditions that are in clear violation of international labour laws.

The North Korean workers worked exorbitantly long days of 10-13 hours, at unreasonably low wages, around 100 dollar per month, while on paper around 500 euro per month was promised. The companies are suspected to have profited from human trafficking thanks to overall reduced costs. This ‘profiting of human trafficking’ is criminalised under the Dutch Criminal Code (cl.273f sub 6 DCC). The complaint also accused both companies of money laundering and fencing.

On 8 December 2021, the complaint was dismissed by the Dutch Public Prosecution. We have now decided to lodge a written complaint with the Court of Appeal in The Hague, pursuant to Article 12 of the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure.

pink background with text 90% was for the Dutch market

Previously in 2018 an earlier case related to the severe exploitation of North Korean workers at Polish shipyards was filed by Prakken d’Olivera and GLAN to the Dutch prosecution office. See more information on this case via the website of Prakken d’Olivera and GLAN, a media report by Thomson Reuters as well as by the Dutch news service NOS.

Why was the case dismissed?

The Dutch Public Prosecutor declined to launch a criminal investigation against the two Dutch companies. While the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office acknowledged the basic set of facts underpinning the complaint by La Strada International – i.e. the exploitation of North Korean workers in Poland by companies supplying to the Dutch shipbuilding industry – , it concluded after a preliminary investigation that it couldn’t be proven that the companies had profited from the forced labour. Generally many cases relating to human trafficking and forced labour are dismissed in the Netherlands and in Europe on the basis of claims of lack of evidence.

The Appeal

On 16th of December 2022– one year after the dismissal by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office – an appeal challenging the Dutch government’s failure to investigate the use of North Korean forced labour in the shipbuilding supply chains of two Dutch shipbuilding firms has been filed by La Strada International with support of Prakken d’Oliveira and Global Legal Action Network (GLAN).

In our appeal, we argue that the two Dutch shipbuilding firms knew or reasonably could have known about the inhumane, severe exploitative conditions that North Korean workers were subjected to, but still went ahead with ordering ship components. Deliberately taking advantage of the exploitation of another is criminalized in the Netherlands. Furthermore, acquiring goods which are known or could have reasonably be known to be produced through a crime like forced labour amounts to the crimes of money laundering and fencing under Dutch law.

Next to profiting of human trafficking, the scope of our complaint includes also money laundering and fencing. The prosecutor did not or hardly explain why these crimes have not been committed, whereas these offences have a very broad scope of criminality under Dutch law.

We believe governments have a responsibility to hold companies accountable which knowingly profit and gain high profits at the expense of workers in state imposed forced labour.

In August 2023 a first court session was held during with we explained our appeal. A next court session is expected in March this year.

who IS behind this complaint and appeal?

These are the different organisations who are behind the complaint and appeal:

logo Prakken
Logo Glan
logo la strada